Cancer patients, like everyone, benefit from exercise
July 1, 2018
In bygone days, if you were being treated for cancer your doctor generally told you to get plenty of rest and reduce your daily activities.
But research has now shown that regular exercise can be an important part of cancer treatment by helping you feel better and improving your quality of life. It may also lessen nausea, weight gain, sleep disturbance and fatigue. It could even mean fewer medications during your treatment and lower your risk of complications.
Exercise guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) are the same for cancer patients as for all healthy persons. The ACSM recommends that everyone work up to 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, with two to three days of weight resistance training, including flexibility and balance exercises. Cancer patients will probably want to start out slowly and work their way up to the recommended exercise levels as they are able.
Here are some of the benefits related to specific forms of exercise:
Aerobic fitness (walking, dancing, bicycling, rowing, nu-step, jogging, etc.)
Lowers the risk of heart disease
Lowers the risk of osteoporosis
Decreases heart risk
Decreases resting blood pressure
Lowers risk of blood clots by improving blood flow to the legs
Reduces body fat
Weight resistance training (lifting weights, resistance bands and tubes, calisthenics, Pilates)
Increases muscle mass
Increases muscle strength and power
Improves your ability to perform the daily activities of living
Keeps muscles from wasting away due to inactivity
Note: Pilates is a system of exercises using special apparatus designed to improve physical strength, flexibility and posture, and enhance mental awareness.
Flexibility exercises (yoga, tai chi, stretching)
Help you move better
Help you move with less pain
Balance training (tai chi, yoga, Pilates, balance exercises)
Lowers risk of falling
Lowers risk of breaking a bone if you have osteoporosis
Mental health from exercise (Qigong, tai chi, yoga, meditation)
Improves your self-esteem
Lowers feelings of anxiety and depression
Relieves stress that could otherwise trigger inflammation
Improves your ability to keep social contacts
Before starting any exercise program, check with your doctor or cancer treatment team. It’s especially important to inquire about any treatment side effects that cause you concern while exercising. Watch for extreme tiredness and fatigue. Start out slowly and progress carefully. You will most likely feel better and your cancer treatment will have improved results.
The more you can exercise the better you will function. Pick exercises that you enjoy and have fun doing. To safely begin an exercise program with good results, work with an exercise professional who can design a personal workout program that is right for you.
Tim Chinn is a university certified personal trainer and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine. He works at the Anchorage Senior Activity Center.