Say No to Bedrest and Yes to Exercises!
There is no better weapon to befriend when cancer is planning the next move from the other end- well, what would that be? Exercise!
Evidence and research reports stating the benefits of exercise during and after cancer treatment are numerous, and they continue to keep rolling in. Some studies reveal that exercise can prevent cancer altogether. Others show how exercise can defeat the growth of tumors and limit it from advancing to the next stage.
Let’s take a look at what experts have got to say about this development.
Experts’ views on how exercises can help cancer patients
Reducing the risk factor of developing cancer is now a reality, thanks to research findings suggesting exercise as a solution. The latest reports indicate that physical activity can keep cancer from recurring.
Kerry Courneya, Ph.D., Professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, reports how a recent investigation has confirmed that indulging in short bursts of physical activity can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.
Being overweight, however, can affect the survival rate and increase the risk of cancer recurrence.
Recent evidence suggests that women who exercised after breast cancer treatment lived longer and fought the odds of a recurrence. Two clinical trials proved how exercises benefitted colorectal cancer survivors with longer survival, compared to those who didn’t engage in physical activities.
Cancer survivors want to do all they can to avoid a recurrence, and for that, focusing on weight control and exercising should be their primary goals, suggests Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, director of physical activity, and nutrition for the American Cancer Society.
What experts once suspected, has now been confirmed. The verdict is that if you are a cancer survivor or currently undergoing cancer treatment, then exercising can improve your chances of living longer and preventing a recurrence.
To those recently diagnosed with cancer or getting treated for the same, here is a piece of good news- exercise can be your most important cancer treatment. Starting an exercise program or maintaining one can be empowering as it brings you out from the passive role of a patient and helps you improve your attitude, apart from your well-being.
Sara Mansfield, M.S., exercise trainer at Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, puts forth the argument that exercise is helpful to people before, during, or after their cancer treatment. Earlier, doctors advised patients who were diagnosed with a chronic illness, such as diabetes or cancer, to take plenty of bed rest and to stay away from physical activities as much as possible. This can be helpful advice to those, where the tiniest movement might cause pain, accelerate heart rate, or cause shortness of breath. Loving family members too might urge the patients to take rest instead of straining after a recent diagnosis, but it is vital to note that inactivity can result in a functional decline, such as reduced range of motion and muscle weakness. Research stresses the significance of moving more and resting less.
Once diagnosed, the first thing to do is to curate an exercise plan with the help of the concerned health care provider, recommends Mansfield. In case you have been following a sedentary lifestyle for a while, then it’s better to start by walking or jogging that can build your muscles and increase your stamina.
So, we find how research shows exercise is not only possible or safe during cancer treatment; it can improve the quality of your life. Hence the reason why cancer centers urge patients to be as physically active as possible these days.
Goals of an exercise plan
- During treatment
Studies and the various reports tell us why exercising is relevant for patients undergoing cancer treatment, but the exercise plan of one person need not be suitable for another. Each person’s exercise plan should be formed according to what works for them. An exercise program should take into consideration what is already part of your routine, how much you can take up at this stage, and if any physical problems are limiting you in any way.
Some of the things that affect your exercising ability are:
- Your cancer type
- Your cancer stage
- Your cancer treatment
- Your strength, stamina, and fitness level
If you had an exercise plan to occupy you before treatment, then your doctor might advise you to exercise less frequently than before or at a slower pace during treatment. Your goal should be to stay as fit and as active as possible. People who were inactive before cancer treatment better start slowly, with low-intense activity for shorter periods as they can tire easily. For the elderly, whose bones have been affected by cancer, or have problems like peripheral neuropathy or arthritis, balance and safety are necessary to prevent the risk of injuries and falls. They might need someone to assist them while exercising.
Some people can plan their exercise regime and start right away, but taking the help of a physical therapist, exercise specialist, or exercise physiologist can guarantee better results. Make sure that you start only after you get your doctor’s go-ahead sign, someone who is well aware of your condition and the possible limitations you have. Trained professionals will suggest the right exercise plan, which is not just safe for you, but also turns out to be effective in the long run. Additionally, they can recommend the duration and how often you should exercise.
Whether you are starting or continuing your old exercise plan, your doctor should have a say in tailoring a program that suits your needs and interests. In any case, make sure that you update your cancer team on how much you have been able to keep up with your exercise plan throughout your treatment.
- While you recover from the treatment
Side-effects of cancer treatment can take time to fade, but some of them usually last much longer, and others might emerge later. Most patients start smoothly by exercising with less intensity and for shorter periods. What appears to a healthy person as a low or moderately intense activity might seem like a strenuous activity for a cancer survivor. Do bear in mind that moderate activity is any exercise that requires as much effort as that of a brisk walk.
- When you are living cancer-free or when your condition is stable
Engaging in regular physical activity during this phase can benefit your overall health, and thereby improve the quality of your life. For some, it might even help them live for a longer time. As mentioned earlier, there are research materials that imply that healthy body weight, right meals, and being fit can prevent the chances of cancer recurrence.
The American Cancer Society has the following exercise tips to offer cancer survivors.
- Make regular exercising a part of your routine.
- Avoid inactivity at all costs and get back to daily activities right after diagnosis or as soon as possible.
- Spend 150 minutes of your week exercising.
- Engage in strength training exercises on at least two days every week.
Several findings show that in cancer survivors, regular exercise reduced anxiety, fatigue, depression, improved muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness, body composition, self-esteem, and several other factors that measure the quality of life. At least 20 studies reveal that colorectal, breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer survivors who exercised regularly could reduce the risk of a recurrence and improve their rate of survival, as opposed to those who led an inactive life.
Patients who are obese or overweight, once the treatment comes to an end, should try their level best to limit foods and drinks with high-calorie and also indulge in physical activity to lose the excess weight. Those who underwent treatment for lung or digestive cancers might be underweight, so they need to put on some weight, which is deemed healthy. However, they should stay fit. Both groups must include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in their meals. Obesity has proven to be associated with far-reaching consequences, such as increasing the risk of cancer development. Exercise can ensure and help to stay within the range of healthy body weight.
- When you are living with advanced cancer
Some amount of exercise can enhance the quality of life for those people who are fighting specific cancers, even if it has reached an advanced stage. But the effectiveness of exercise varies from person to person, for, it is determined by cancer type, health problems, or any physical disability associated with the condition. The situation or health condition can get unpredictable for a patient with advanced cancer; therefore, an exercise plan should be formulated such that it takes into account the person’s abilities, goals, and preferences.
How to stay fit during and after cancer treatment
So, now we come to understand why patients are often encouraged to exercise right after a cancer diagnosis. A cancer diagnosis is indeed a life-shattering event where patients tend to fall into a pit of depression. This can make the process of recovery all the more difficult and affect the patient’s faith. Thus, taking control of the situation and dealing with it the right way is vital. Many studies have managed to prove that exercise can slow the progress of disease and also help improve the temperament. Hence, a good way to start dealing (both physically and emotionally) with the newly diagnosed cancer would be by maintaining an exercise routine.
The following are different exercises that can help you stay fit during and after cancer treatment.
Surely, you must have heard of Pilates. Pilates is a low-impact exercise that can help build muscle strength. But what most people didn’t know is that Pilates offers multiple benefits to cancer patients.
Pilates, as a complementary therapy for cancer, has been gaining wide acceptance in recent years. Both the physiological and psychological benefits of Pilates can aid patients in their recovery from cancer and the side-effects of treatment.
Pilates has been found to reduce fatigue, improve physical function, and has a significant impact on the cancer patient’s quality of life.
Founded by Joseph Pilates, Pilates focuses on proper postural alignment, promoting core strength, and developing muscle balance.
There is no strict way to go about Pilates, and it can be modified to suit your level of strength and fitness.
How is Pilates beneficial for cancer patients?
Some studies have pointed out that Pilates can enhance the lives of cancer patients. For instance, a 2017 research report published in the Journal of Breast Health reveals that breast cancer patients who made Pilates a part of their exercise regime experienced greater improvements in upper extremity functions and could significantly reduce the swelling in their limbs (milder lymphedema). The study further concludes that those who practiced Pilates could successfully relieve the symptoms of lymphedema when compared to the patients who engaged in standard exercises.
Moreover, Pilates and integrative oncology go hand in hand, combining modern medicine with relevant complementary-based therapies, consisting of nutrition and exercise. If you are looking for an alternate route to cope with depression or stress, reduce inflammation, and to enhance your immunity during cancer treatment, then Pilates and integrative oncology can be a great fit.
Pilates can do wonders for your body and mind, regardless of whether you were recently diagnosed or you have just completed your treatment. Your doctor will be able to suggest how to incorporate Pilates in your fitness plan and make it a part of your daily routine.
Yoga is one therapeutic activity that promises to complement the medical treatment for cancer, by healing the body, mind, and spirit and making the soul whole. Dr. Maggie DiNome brings to light how several studies demonstrate the benefits of yoga for cancer patients, how it can improve the range of motion, build strength, and can help combat stress and fatigue.
Benefits of yoga for cancer patients
- Research links yoga with reduced tiredness and fatigue in patients undergoing cancer treatment. Three studies prove that the more yoga sessions you undertake in a week, the greater the chances of reducing fatigue.
- Fighting a life-threatening disease can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. However, one study concludes that practicing yoga for seven weeks can reduce the likelihood of developing or causing “mood disturbance” by about 65%. Thus, another study supports that a reduction in stress can automatically increase appetite and quality of life.
- In addition to causing you stress, sometimes, certain cancers can also limit your mobility. Plus, constant inactivity or an extended stay in the hospital can make the body sore and stiff in multiple places. All of this combined can make carrying out daily activities a chore. If included in your exercise plan, yoga can help you stay active and limber. An evaluation of 16 trials confirmed that practicing yoga regularly can enhance the functional well-being of cancer patients and survivors.
- One study finds that yoga can help with insomnia and improve the quality of your sleep.
- By decreasing body fat density, yoga has known to lower the risk of cancer recurrence. Daily exercise through yoga can help solve issues related to obesity.
- Energy Therapies
Also known as biofield therapies, energy therapies are based on the belief that energy fields flow throughout your body. When the energy flows unrestricted and freely from one end of the body to another, you have perfect physical, emotional, and spiritual health. But when you are ill, this energy flow is restricted or blocked.
The different types of energy therapies are as follows.
- Reiki: Practitioners of Reiki believe that Reiki is the center of spiritual focus when it comes to energy therapies. In this therapy, a practitioner tries to channel spiritual energy through the hands to start the course of healing.
- Therapeutic touch: In therapeutic touch, a practitioner runs their hands right above the body to locate the blockages, and to replace the harmful energy with their healthy energy.
- Healing touch: Healing touch makes use of gentle touches to help the body heal the energy fields on its own.
- Magnetic healing therapy: This therapy involves the use of magnets that are placed on specific parts of the body. Practitioners think that these magnets can help unblock the energy flow and render the body free from restricted energy flow, which is causing illness.
There is no conclusive evidence that can vouch for the fact that energy therapies can cure cancer. Energy therapies can indeed alleviate the symptoms of cancer or the side-effects of cancer treatments such as fatigue, anxiety, nausea, pain, or vomiting. Studies indicate that most people feel relaxed, serene, calm, and improvements in their quality of life following an energy therapy session.
Few studies assert that energy therapies seem to work because the person feels the care and focus of the therapist or practitioner rather than an altered energy flow. Further research should be conducted better to understand the relevance of energy therapies as a complementary therapy.
A few short sessions of strength training 13 every week can help you build your strength, apart from making you look and feel better. Use free weights such as dumbbells or barbells, or weight machines to achieve your strength training goals.
Some tips for strength training are:
- The American Heart Association advises strength training at least twice a week.
- Learning to do strength training the right way is important, so you must consult with a fitness expert before starting the exercise plan yourself.
- Doing each strength training exercise 8-12 times is sufficient to work your muscles.
- Don’t exert yourself if your muscles feel so tired that you can barely lift them for the 12th repetition.
- Start on a slow note and proceed by gradually increasing the weight or resistance. This would make strength training exercise easier.
Benefits of strength training for cancer patients
Strength training can benefit men and women of all ages, but getting your doctor’s approval is a must, especially if you haven’t exercised in some time. So, make sure that you start only after you consult with him.
If you can take time out every week for 20 or 30-minute strength training sessions twice or thrice a week, you will start to experience significant health benefits. The benefits are as follows.
- With age, your muscle mass can take a hit, but with strength training, you can build it up in no time.
- Strength training can increase bone density and thereby reduce the risk of fractures.
- Your joint flexibility can be enhanced with strength training exercises, thereby reducing the risk of contracting arthritis.
- These exercises can help you control your weight as strength training burns calories easily, thus keeping you in shape.
- By increasing balance and flexibility, strength training exercises can prevent the risk of falls and injuries.
- It speeds up your metabolism, i.e. the rate by which your body converts food into energy, thus growing and rebuilding cells.
Also known as flexibility exercises and range-of-motion exercises, stretching exercises help retain the elasticity of muscles and enable the free movement of your joints. Stretching exercises are usually felt like “comfortable tension,” i.e. you experience the tension of stretching but not any pain.
When fighting cancers that require surgery, says Josie Gardiner, people may experience weakness in specific parts of their body. For instance, breast cancer survivors who underwent mastectomies might feel weakness at the shoulder girdles where the rotator cuff was held. One mode of exercise to strengthen the shoulder muscles is a stretching exercise where the patients are asked to walk their arms up a wall, by facing it, for an increased range of motion. Gardiner continues that trying out these exercises can help the patient regain mobility in those parts that underwent surgery.
Benefits of stretching exercise for cancer patients
- With good flexibility comes ease and comfort of movement, be it walking, sitting, bending over to pick up a fallen item.
- Stretching exercises can free any stiffness in the muscles and help overcome the posture changes that might develop right after breast cancer reconstruction, surgery, or radiation.
- By reducing your stress, flexibility exercises can make you feel more relaxed.
Remember to start slowly. Proceed with the stretching exercises once you get the green signal from your doctor.
Why choose ZenOnco.io?
Our exercise and movement training include personalized fitness packages that intend to cater to your needs, your cancer, or for its prevention. The fitness team at our quarters curate a customized fitness plan by taking your comfort into account and designing an exercise program such that it suits your preferences. We recommend those exercises which your cancer and your body demands. As the treatment progresses, so does our exercise plan take new shapes and modifications to fit you. No other cancer center understands the importance of personalized and individualized care like we do. Our medically supervised exercise program ensures to help you fight cancer better and prevent the chances of a recurrence. At ZenOnco.io, by assessing current fitness levels, we train your body to become resilient to cancer and its treatment.
Our personalized therapies are delivered to maximize the benefits of your cancer cure by reducing the treatment toxicity, by enhancing your tolerance to the side-effects of cancer treatment, and by preventing sleep disruption.
We offer our patients only the best.
To learn more about our programs and how we can help you, check out our official website.
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