Let’s Get Physical
Physical activity is important in all phases of life and it can be very helpful for people recently diagnosed with cancer, as well as for patients in remission. Some of the effects of physical activity are quickly apparent in patients’ overall wellness or quality of life. Exercise can reduce fatigue, maintain or build muscular strength, and reduce nausea.
Being physically active also may:
- Improve your circulation and blood flow, reducing your risk for blood clots.
- Lessen the risk of chronic illness and disease, such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
- Improve mental health by increasing confidence and self-esteem.
- Reduce anxiety and depression.
- Improve sleep quality.
- Help to control weight.
- Improve balance, decreasing the risk of falls.
- Increase body awareness.
- Help you perform activities of daily living.
Depending on your type of cancer, treatment protocol and the phase of your treatment, your quantity, duration and difficulty of physical activity will vary. Other things, such as chronic illness or existing injuries, also affect your ability to exercise. Contact your Primary Care Physician (PCP) or Oncologist for a clearance to exercise and for recommendations on any specific exercises or movements to avoid.
Once you get the go-ahead to be physically active, start with short, slow and low-impact movements. Group fitness classes like yoga and tai chi or walking are ideal for beginners. If you are taking a class with an instructor, inform them of your limitations before your class begins. Many instructors have training to work with cancer patients or others with special needs.
Every person is different. Try various types of exercise until you find one you are happy with and brings you joy. As you progress through treatment, you may feel better on some days and give a little extra in your exercise program. When you feel unwell, you might need to exercise less, at a lower intensity or choose to rest. Listen to your body and your health care team.
The American Cancer Society recommends that cancer survivors in remission:
- Take part in regular physical activity.
- Avoid inactivity and return to normal daily activities as soon as possible.
- Aim to exercise at least 150 minutes per week.
- Include strength training exercises at least two days per week. Physical activity and cancer recurrence (cancer that returns after treatment is completed) has been closely studied. More than 20 studies have suggested that physically active cancer survivors have a lower risk of cancer recurrence compared to those who are inactive. Eating a healthy diet also is extremely beneficial for a person in remission. Contact your PCP or local hospital to obtain a referral to a Registered Dietitian. Continue your journey to wellness with a focus on regular physical activity and proper nutrition.
By Danielle Campbell, Community Wellness Manager, Hurley Medical Center