Exercises and Yoga for Cancer Patients

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Cancer does not just affect our health; it affects our life. It becomes hard to carry on with your life as it was before because you are sucked into the whirlwind of doctor appointments, surgeries, chemotherapy, and countless medicines. Emotional distress and lack of energy to do everyday chores become a common problem for patients undergoing therapy. A study claims that 25% of patients under palliative care go through Depression. One needs a strong mind, an undeterred mental strength to fight Cancer Treatment side effects along with physical strength so that your body can keep up with the changes and treatments required.

Research shows that physically active people have lower risks of developing lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, etc. and if they are cancer survivors, they have less probability of a recurrence. Here are some of the exercises and Yoga Asanas, recommended by Yoga experts and doctors, and backed by decades of study which prove to be beneficial for Cancer Treatment as well as prevention:

Aerobic Exercises:

The most common symptoms of Cancer Treatment is Fatigue. According to research, this Fatigue can be treated by aerobic exercises. These exercises include brisk walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, etc. Any activity that results in using most of your muscles falls under this category and is usually recommended as cancer prevention care. The intensity of the activities may vary.

  • Brisk Walking: This is the easiest exercise that one can perform anywhere. Walk at a fast pace till your heartbeat increases, and you are Sweating (preferably 25 minutes). This puts most of your muscles in use.
  • Sports: This can range from cycling, swimming to hardcore sports like football, tennis, etc. which range in high-intensity aerobics.

Strength-training Exercises:

These exercises are beneficial for resistance training and to increase endurance and stamina by weight training, which is needed, especially after Radiotherapy. It is proven that Yoga exercises help Breast Cancer survivors in the long run. One could use body weight, free weights, etc. Strength-training exercises as Yoga positions provide the calmness and stability of yoga, while enhancing the core-balance of the body.

  • The Bird and Dog Position: This exercise targets your core and strengthens it. One has to sit on all fours with the back flat and knees directly under hips and hands under shoulders. Keeping this position steadily, extend your left leg, and once you find your balance, extend your right arm. Maintain this position and then slowly return to all fours. Repeat alternatively. If one has bad knees or has any problem while kneeling, they can use a football.
  • Wall Squat or Utkatasan: This is an exercise you can do whenever you find a little time. All you need is a wall. Stand such that your feet lie in line with your shoulders. Lean back on the wall by bending your knees, and while maintaining this contact with your wall, slide down till you feel a strain in your legs. Maintain this position for around 20 seconds and return to the original position. Repeat it a few times. With time, you can try to slide down further to increase the challenge.
  • Arm Lifts: According to a study, Breast Cancer survivors who are physically active have a 40% lower death risk. Lay down on the floor or anywhere flat. Relax your shoulders, and join your hands together. Keeping your elbows straight, lift your arm over your head for 10 seconds and then lower your arms slowly. Repeat this a few times. You can use a pillow to support yourself. If you have trouble lying down flat, lean on a chair.
  • Calf-Raise: This exercise strengthens your legs, especially your calves. Stand straight, take the support of a wall or chair if necessary. Raise your heels and maintain the position for 10 seconds. Return to the original position. Repeat this and challenge yourself by raising them for more and more time.
  • Warrior or Virabhadrasana: This exercise strengthens the core of the body and is great to find the center of gravity of the body. Stand with your feet wide apart, and bring your left knee forward so that it aligns with your left ankle. Extend your arms in a T-pose and look straight ahead. Maintain the pose for 10 seconds and repeat for the other side.

Flexibility exercises:

These exercises are necessary for a cool-down session as well as to maintain the health and functionality of joints and muscles. This could be done by attempting several Yoga positions and simple stretching exercises. These should be chosen according to one’s personal needs and by how much one can push themselves. It is necessary to remember that Yoga is for relaxation and Stress relief. Keep your breathing and mind calm while performing these exercises.

Some of these are detailed below:

  • Ardha Surya Namaskar: Stand straight with your legs closed and shoulders relaxed. Press your palms together in front of your chest and then slowly raise them above your head till you feel your muscles stretching. Then bend down so that your fingers touch your feet. Remember to keep your back straight. Slowly return to the original position. Repeat this a few times.
  • Viparita Karani: This asana needs just a wall. Lay on your back near a wall and raise your legs so that they make a right angle with the floor. Maintain this position for a few minutes. This exercise will calm your mind and help in improving blood circulation.
  • Savasana: Remember, Yoga is essentially to relax your body and calm your mind. For this purpose, one needs to learn to let go and just lie down to soothe your thoughts. For this asana, all you need to do is to lie down flat on the floor with your legs at least 3-4 inches apart. Lay your arms wide open and close your eyes. Relax your body, each limb, each organ, and just focus on your breathing. For cancer patients, Yoga asanas can prove beneficial for mental and emotional wellness. Maintain this pose for at least 5 minutes.

There are numerous papers released across the years that prove how essential Yoga is to treat various cancer treatments’ side effects. There are different exercises required by different people who have undergone different medical procedures for different types of cancer. The exercises above are common and can be performed by several cancer patients. One must always consult a doctor, physiotherapist, or diet and metabolic counseling for cancer before following an exercise regime.