By Liz Davies –Guest Blogger
People undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments often feel less inclined to exercise, since the side effects of cancer treatments often include intense fatigue, discomfort and even pain. For years, doctors have given the advice that people undergoing cancer treatments should rest as much as possible. However, new studies suggest that exercise may be more beneficial for cancer patients than previously thought.
New studies and literature reviews recommend the same amount of exercise for cancer patients that are normally recommended for most cancer-free people. Generally, doctors recommend at least twenty to thirty minutes of moderate exercise each day. Cancer patients who engage in this amount of exercise tend to experience reduced rates of their cancer recurring and lower chance of death as a result of their cancer.
Cancer treatments often cause bone loss in patients, particularly women. Strength-building exercises can help curtail bone loss by increasing muscle density, which in turn strengthens the bones. Strength-building exercises are generally performed with dumbbells and weight machines. This kind of exercise cannot build bone mass; it only prevents bone loss, so it is important to be proactive to prevent as much bone loss as possible. Cancer patients who regularly engage in strength-building exercises also retain tissues that are often lost during treatment.
Some cancer treatments cause weight gain or loss. Maintaining a healthy body weight prevents cancer recurrence. Aerobic exercise like running, walking or swimming can help regulate body weight. Aerobic exercise can also improve energy and mood during treatment, which can stave off the depression that many cancer patients experience.
People undergoing cancer treatment often experience crippling side effects from cancer drugs, and it may seem impossible to maintain an exercise routine. Both the physical activity and the act of keeping a routine can have tremendous effects on a patient’s mental health. People who maintain an exercise regimen during treatment typically report that their routines help keep them positive. One way to stay motivated is to redefine what constitutes exercise. If a thirty-minute activity is not possible, the patient may try shorter ten-minute periods of exercise. Any physical activity is better than none at all, so even simple activities like walking around the house or up and down stairs can make a difference. Stretching exercises like yoga are also beneficial to both mind and body, although patients should consult a doctor before beginning stretching activities. These ideas are great for people with all types of cancers like pancreatic cancer, breast cancer and even rare cases of pleural mesothelioma. Support groups can also keep a person motivated to exercise. Exercise can be less tedious with the support of friends.
Keeping an exercise routine has a demonstrable effect on the mental and physical wellness of people undergoing cancer treatment. By maintaining a routine, cancer patients can increase their prognosis and quality of life. Before beginning any exercise program, patients should consult their physician.
Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April.