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Physical and Mental Fitness During Cancer

Cancer and its treatments produce side effects and significantly reduce the quality of life.

Research shows that exercise is helpful during cancer treatment. It helps improve your quality of life and the energy to do your daily work. Physical activity may also help reduce the side effects of treatment and possibly decrease your risk of recurrence in the future.

Resting or sitting for a long time may cause loss of body function, muscle weakness, and reduced range of motion. Many cancer care teams advise their patients to be as physically active as possible before, during and after cancer treatment.

Benefits of exercise during cancer

 Exercise reduces side effects and improves the quality of life for cancer patients during treatment and recovery. It gives various beneficial outcomes. Exercise represents an effective therapeutic intervention for preparing patients to complete medicines, reducing acute, chronic and late side effects, and improving quality of life during and after treatments.

Following are the benefits of exercise for people with cancer:

  • It helps your body and brain work better.
  • It reduces fatigue and feeling of tiredness. 
  •  Helps manage depression and anxiety during and after cancer treatment. 
  • It helps in better sleep.
  • It improves your physical ability to get things done.
  • Improves your muscle strength, bone health and range of motion.
  •  It strengthens your immune system.
  • It Increases your appetite.
  • Helps in gaining and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • It may help with breast cancer-related lymphedema (and does not increase risk).
  • It decreases the chances of recurrence of some cancer. 
  • Improves your quality of life.
  • It reduces the side effects of treatment.

Oncologists recommend avoiding inactivity and returning to normal daily activities as soon as possible after diagnosis and treatment

  • Take part in regular physical activity.
  • Start slowly and build up the amount of physical activity over time.
  • Build up to 150-300 minutes of moderate (or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity) activity each week.
  • Exercise several times a week for at least 10 minutes at a time.
  • Do stretching exercises at least two days each week.

Add physical activity to your daily routine

  • There are ways to add physical activity to your daily activities. Remember, only do what you feel up to doing.
  • Prepare your food.
  • Go to the nearby market on foot.
  • Do gardening. It is suitable for your physical as well as mental health.
  • Clean your room.
  • Make the bed as it will involve all the muscles. 

Recovering from treatment 

You should slowly increase exercise time and intensity for better results. As treatment makes you weak, starting with low- or moderate-intensity activities is good. Take your time and then gradually increase your activity. The most important thing is to move as much as possible.

Mental health during cancer

A cancer diagnosis can affect your emotional health and other family members and caregivers. Common feelings of anxiety, distress, and depression are common during this life-changing situation. It may affect your working capacity. You must understand these changes and get professional help when needed.  

Relaxation, meditation, creative therapies for mental health 

Therapies and activities that help you relax are often helpful in easing some forms of distress. These might include relaxation exercises, yoga, mindfulness, meditation, massage, and guided imagery. Creative therapies like art, dance, and music have also been shown to be helpful for people in some stressful situations. You can also indulge in pet therapy. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT), also known as pet therapy, involves spending time with therapy animals, which is another option that some people might find interesting and worthwhile.

Spiritual support to bring positivity 

In a crisis, many people prefer to talk with a person from their spiritual or religious group. Today, many clergy have training in pastoral counseling for people with cancer. They’re often available to the cancer care team and will see patients who don’t have their clergy or religious counselor. Pastoral services are essential because there can be different times during a person’s cancer journey when a crisis might lead to questioning their faith or needing to rely on it more.

 Consult mental health experts if required

Mental health services are used to evaluate and treat distress that’s moderate to severe. This distress may be caused by other emotional or psychiatric problems the person had before cancer was found. Some issues that can make it harder to cope and may be worsened by the distress of cancer include:

  • Major depression
  • Dementia
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Substance abuse

Mental health professionals use a range of counseling and therapy approaches to help you cope. They often start by helping you figure out what has worked well for you in the past. They will respect your coping style and try to help you strengthen it by helping you understand how past problems or experiences may be making it harder to deal with cancer. These professionals may also teach you techniques like relaxation and meditation to help control distress.


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