What You Should Know About Exercising During Cancer Treatment
Believe it or not, for many people with cancer, exercise, and physical activity can be important parts of their treatment plan. Research shows that even moderate exercise has physical and emotional benefits that can be particularly useful to someone getting chemotherapy or radiation.
The importance of exercising during cancer treatments cannot be understated. But, it is critical that you speak to your doctor about any limitations on your physical activity when considering a treatment exercise program. Consider asking some questions before you embark on a regimen such as-
- Should you lift weights? Should you only use light weights? What about resistance training?
- Can you do vigorous cardio exercise?
- Should I avoid certain exercises altogether?
- Is it safe to go to exercise classes or a gym with other people?
- What type of physical activity will be most beneficial under the circumstances? Resistance exercises?
- What limits on my physical activity or exercise guidelines should I be aware of?
When you are one of the millions of people undergoing cancer treatment, your health and safety must be top priorities. Make sure you choose an exercise plan that supports your recovery and is reasonable under the circumstances of your condition.
Before embarking on any exercise regimen, speak to your medical team, who can provide proper guidance. You might even want to consult a cancer exercise specialist.
What Are Some Benefits of Physical Activity During Cancer Treatments?
Exercise is a proven way for most people to maintain good cardiovascular fitness and muscular health. Being physically active also has proven mental health benefits. Research shows that even moderate exercise like walking several times a week can markedly improve your overall health and well-being. These benefits don’t just apply to people who are already living a healthy lifestyle. It is rarely too late to start a regular exercise program.
The exercise benefits you might experience when you have cancer can be critical to your physical and emotional recovery. You might find a real improvement in your quality of life.
Chemotherapy and radiation can wreak havoc on the mind and body of even the strongest cancer patient. Exhaustion and nausea can be hard to overcome, especially when you are depressed or feeling anxious. Over time, cancer treatment can weaken the body in ways that are hard to combat. Even normal activities can become difficult.
But, finding the strength and time to exercise can work wonders on the body and mind.
According to Cancer.net, a well-planned exercise routine might provide some of the following benefits to people getting cancer treatment:
- Increase muscle strength and reduce muscle weakness/loss/wasting
- Improve sleep and decrease fatigue
- Increase appetite/avoid weight loss
- Reduce the likelihood of physical side effects like neuropathy, lymphedema, and nausea
- Reduce the likelihood of becoming depressed
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Lessen the amount of time you must stay in the hospital
- Strengthen your immune system
- Help the body repair itself after surgery
- Improve balance, mobility, and promote independence
- Enhance the effectiveness of your treatments
- Improve your overall quality of life
- Decrease the risks of developing other cancers
- Decrease the risk of a cancer recurrence
- Help maintain a healthy weight, which can prevent some chronic diseases
- Improve survival rates for some cancers
Remember to speak to your doctor before you begin to exercise during cancer treatment. You want to make sure that the exercise you do is appropriate depending on the treatments you are getting, the type of cancer you have, and any side effects you might be feeling. Being physically active is important. But, you don’t want to erase the potential benefits of exercise by putting yourself in danger.
What Types of Exercise Can Benefit Cancer Patients?
Generally, physical activity is good for you. But, cancer and treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy – the physical and emotional side effects – can make it easy to lay in bed for days on end and do very minimal activity. It is important to avoid inactivity. Having a well-thought-out exercise plan can actually give you a reason to get up and do something positive for yourself!
According to Cancer.net, the following types of exercises might be part of cancer treatment exercise programs:
- Balance exercises
- Strength training
- Breathing exercises
These exercises can include moderate intensity activity, vigorous intensity activity, or something in between. They can involve working on the major muscle groups, building strength in a way that targets a specific body function, or doing physical activity that focuses on improving your quality of life.
Cancer treatment is not easy. Some debilitating side effects of cancer treatment include stiffness, fatigue, muscle wasting, osteoporosis, falling, difficulty breathing, and depression.
These types of exercises and physical activities listed above can have direct impacts on all of these side effects. These exercises can improve blood flow, increase mobility, promote tissue repair, increase happiness, decrease anxiety, improve sleep, increase muscle mass, and fight osteoporosis. Regular exercise can help you avoid additional health problems while you fight cancer.
Stay Safe While Exercising During Cancer Treatment
Knowing the benefits of exercise might motivate you to try to do more than is wise under the circumstances. Make sure to follow the guidelines or any limitations set for you by your health care team.
One of the most important things to do is listen to your body. If you are exhausted, maybe walk less or walk more slowly. If you are experiencing neuropathy in your hands, perhaps skip the hand weights for now. Don’t ignore signs that you might be pushing yourself too hard.
Some other safety considerations and health tips include:
Hydration – Dehydration is an ongoing problem for many people getting chemotherapy. Vomiting, intestinal distress, and loss of appetite can very quickly lead to dehydration. It is critical that you remain hydrated, especially while exercising. Drink plenty of water.
Start slow – Remember that you might not be as strong as you used to be or have the same level of endurance. Go easy on yourself, and don’t be discouraged. It is a good idea to start slowly to avoid injuries, prevent overexertion, and gain confidence.
Maintain a healthy diet – Exercise and diet go hand in hand, and the combination of a solid exercise routine and a healthy diet can provide maximum health benefits. Avoiding sugar, alcohol, and processed foods can help. You want to make sure your body has the nutrients it needs to recover after exercising.
Consider group fitness programs – Group fitness programs can be beneficial because they are usually run by professionals who understand cancer care and can monitor your progress. A physical therapist might oversee the exercises to make sure you do them correctly. There might be an exercise physiologist on hand to help. Exercising with other cancer patients or cancer survivors can keep you safe and help you stay motivated.
It is also a good idea to regularly remind your cancer team about your exercise routine and progress. You should be mindful that as your treatments progress or changes occur, you might have to alter your exercise regimen. Communication is an important part of keeping you safe and healthy.
Send Cancer Gift Baskets
Do you have a friend with breast cancer? Do you know people with cancer who could use a boost? Are you one of the millions of cancer survivors who want to do something kind for someone else currently immersed in a cancer treatment plan? We understand how hard it can be to handle a cancer diagnosis and the treatments that follow.
If someone you love has cancer, send them a helpful cancer gift basket from Rock The Treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation gift baskets are packed with the essentials needed to ease side effects of treatment, as well as enhance physical and mental well-being. See all of our cancer care packages and find the one that best supports their journey.