Fighting Cancer With Exercise


Today is National Cancer Survivors Day.  Most of us have friends or family who have dealt with this disease, and are familiar with the struggles and hardships of cancer treatments on both the patient and the caregivers.  In keeping with my blog theme of fitness and health, today I am hosting a guest blogger – Melanie Bowen – who is going to share information and insight about incorporating fitness with cancer recovery.  If you are currently dealing with cancer in your life, I hope you will find this encouraging and helpful!

Melanie is currently a Master’s student with a passion that stems from her grandmother’s cancer diagnosis. She often highlights the great benefits of alternative nutritional, emotional, and physical treatments on those diagnosed with cancer or other serious illness.  To read more from Melanie, visit her blog for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. In her spare time, you can find Melanie trying new vegan recipes, on her yoga mat, or spending time with her family.

Fighting Cancer with Exercise

Exercise workouts may seem like the last thing on the minds of cancer patients. Treatment-related fatigue makes it hard for people to lift their heads, much less lace up their sneakers and head out to the gym or track. Nevertheless, exercise can be vital for patients in cancer recovery.

Traditionally, doctors advised cancer patients to rest and avoid physical activity to preserve strength. Now, exercise as an important component of the overall treatment and recovery plan. New guidelines recommend it as a way to alleviate symptoms, reduce recurrence and improve survival.

Some cancer patients can start or continue exercising immediately after diagnosis. Others, such as those who require surgery to remove a tumor, can start as soon as they receive clearance from their doctors. The type of exercise does not matter, especially early on, just as long as it gets the body moving.

The American Cancer Society recommends 2.5 hours of exercise a week. The ideal exercise plan includes stretching, aerobic exercise and strength training. Here are examples of three exercises that are suitable for most cancer patients at various stages of recovery.

Walking as a Light Exercise

Walking is one of the healthiest activities on earth, and almost anyone can perform this exercise. Walking can be performed anywhere, whether it is around the mall or around the neighborhood. The benefits are immense for physical, social and emotional health. Walking strengthens the muscles and bones, and it reduces cancer-related fatigue. It also builds stamina and endurance, two qualities that are vital for a cancer battle.

Walking is considered a light exercise that is ideal for those going through aggressive therapies. It can be extremely helpful for people with lung cancer, mesothelioma and other diseases that impair breathing. It is not a strenuous exercise, and people can build on it as their fitness improves.

Biking as a Moderate Exercise

Biking is another healthy activity for cancer patients. Generally speaking, people often know how to ride a bike, and understand that there are underlying health benefit. Biking is a great for workout for the heart, lungs, muscles, joints and brain. Biking requires very minimal equipment and like walking, it can be done anywhere at anytime. Patients have the option of going the traditional route by riding around the neighborhood or opting to use a stationary bike at the gym. Although it may be consider as an unconventional thought, even those undergoing cancer chemotherapy can take on biking as an activity.

It is a moderately intense activity that gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing. Unlike running and aerobics, biking causes less physical stress and strain, which is why it is considered as a low impact exercise. It is a great way to have fun and stay fit on the road to cancer recovery.

Running as an Advanced Exercise

Although running is harder on the knees than biking, it is an excellent exercise option for cancer recovery. It offers physical and emotional benefits that allow cancer patients to regain and maintain their strength.

Running is a great way to build back strength, stamina and endurance. Fatigue is a very common symptom of chemo and radiation therapy. Contrary to belief, this type of tiredness does not lessen with rest. Studies have found running to be effective against fatigue and other cancer-related symptoms. Because running is more strenuous than other exercises, it is more suitable for those with a bit more strength and energy. Patients should gauge their own endurance and plan out distance and intensity accordingly. Help you body in the fight and out run cancer.

Walking, biking and running are just three of the many exercises suitable for cancer fitness. The strength and energy they provide are necessary qualities for battling cancer. Not only that, but exercise greatly improves quality of life. Some exercises are better than others at certain points along the cancer journey. Patients should talk to their doctors about their desire to include exercise in their treatment plans. Doctors, physical therapists or exercise specialists can help patients find appropriate exercises for their individual needs.

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