Exercise is not the first thing to come into one’s mind when they hear Cancer Treatment. People often recommend their loved ones to rest sufficiently during their Cancer Treatment. While rest is essential for a patient’s well being, the impact that exercise can have on their mental and physical health cannot be disputed, especially with the number of studies backing it.
Benefits of exercise during cancer treatment
- Reduces fatigue: Contrary to popular belief, exercise during Cancer Treatment can reduce Fatigue and tiredness that patients generally feel. Studies show that those who do even mild forms of exercise like walking around feel less tired and fatigued than those who didn’t, regardless of types of cancer.
- Improves physical conditioning: Cancer treatments generally leave one tired but also with lower physical conditioning, especially if they weren’t physically active before the diagnosis. They tend to experience more falls (due to balance problems) and injuries due to their vulnerable condition. Studies show maintaining a regular exercise routine during the treatment can improve the daily functioning and overall health of cancer patients. Therefore, you can remain as independent as possible during your treatment.
- Improves mental health: Various studies show Depression symptoms in 0-50% of cancer patients with the percentage varying for different types of cancer. Other mental health issues like Anxiety are common in individuals undergoing treatment, as well. Regular aerobic exercise has shown to have a significant impact on Depression symptoms in a meta-analysis of randomized control trials.
- Prevents weight gain and obesity: Certain types of cancer and its treatments, like breast cancer, cause individuals to gain weight. The increase of body fat can inhibit the treatment progression and cause a recurrence in survivors. Regular exercise can help maintain your weight and fat during and after the treatment.
- Improves survival rates and reduces cancer risk: Research shows an increase in chances of survival in patients with colorectal and breast cancers due to regular physical activity like exercise. Additionally, a recent meta-analysis of several cohort studies has supplemented strong evidence of the effect of exercise and physical activity on reducing cancer risk of around 13 different types of cancer.
Talk to your cancer care provider first
Before starting any exercise program during or after treatment, you should talk to your cancer care provider first. While several studies have proven the safety of exercise during the treatment of different types of cancer, you should always be careful. Your exercise program should be designed keeping in mind.
- Your level of fitness (before diagnosis and after)
- Type of cancer and treatment
- Side effects you are experiencing
- Your treatment program
- Medical history
If you were an active person before the diagnosis, do understand you will not be able to do the same level of exercise as before. Ask your doctor to suggest or find a licensed physical therapist for a thorough body checkup and customized workout routine.
Your exercise program should include these
Your exercise program during and after Cancer Treatment should have a holistic focus for maximum gains. The following should be in your program:
- Breathing exercises: Some cancer patients have reported having breathing problems, keeping them from being physically active. Breathing exercise can significantly improve your lung capacity with the in and outflow of air through your lungs. It can also help your endurance.
- Stretching: Certain treatments like Radiotherapy can cause stiff muscles and reduce flexibility, especially if you are not physically active. Stretching exercises can improve your flexibility and posture along with breaking down scar tissue after Surgery.
- Balance exercise: A side effect of Cancer Treatment is loss of balance, causing many patients to experience more falls than an average person. Including balance exercises like calf raises can help you regain mobility and improve balance.
- Cardio or Aerobic exercise: Aerobic exercises help you with cardio-respiratory fitness by making your heart and lungs function optimally. One of the best ways to include cardio in your exercise program is walking at a moderate pace.
- Strength training: Some types of cancer and its treatments cause muscle loss and osteoporosis, causing weakness and bone Pain. Strength and resistance training can help maintain and increase muscle mass and improve bone health. This not only helps with muscle and bone health but also contributes to improving balance and reducing Fatigue.
Tips for exercising safely during cancer treatment
Exercising during or after Cancer Treatment can be tricky. The side effects you may experience can affect your exercise routine. Therefore, it is pertinent to follow certain precautions while working out. Here are some tips for exercising safely:
- Slow progress: One step at a time should be your approach with exercising during treatment, even if you were physically active before diagnosis. Doing so will prevent injuries and discouragement.
- Safe environment: Osteoporosis is a common side effect in most types of cancer, and as such, you should practice your exercise in a safe environment like padded floors. Make sure the place is hygenic to avoid any infections.
- Listen to your body: If you feel tired one day, it is okay to skip exercise. Do not push your limits too much.
- Stay hydrated: Make sure you drink sufficient amounts of water before, during, and after exercise.
- Eat right: supplementing your exercise program with a healthy, balanced diet is a must. Make sure you have a dietician plan your meal for you.
- Regular doctor visits: Visit your doctor regularly to keep yourself and the cancer care provider in the loop about your health conditions.
To maintain a healthy body and mind, exercise is often a part of the Cancer Treatment. However, precaution needs to be taken to get the most out of the exercise program.