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Moderate Exercise Good for Cancer Patients

By on June 7, 2012

Finding the motivation and will power to exercise when going through cancer can be difficult at best. While fitness can improve the quality of life for most cancer patients, the side effects linked to treatment can work against the mental desire to be more active. No one wants to exercise when feeling washed out and sick, but lack of activity can contribute to muscle loss. Muscle loss results in even more fatigue, setting up a vicious cycle.

Although exercise can help minimize side effects and encourage a faster recovery, the thought of getting off the sofa and moving can feel mentally exhaustive. Overcoming those mental gymnastics isn’t easy, especially for those that have breathing problems associated with mesothelioma or lung cancer. The positive benefits of exercise include an increased ability to perform day-to-day activities, improved circulation, and better weight control. In addition, exercise can defend against other disease conditions such as diabetes and arthritis. That is particularly important for cancer survivors.

Types of Exercise for Cancer Patients

Texas Tech University divides exercises that are suitable for cancer patients into five key areas. Each of these areas contain many activities that individuals going through cancer treatments can benefit from.

Sports: For those with a mild form of cancer or those who have completed their treatment, sports make an excellent activity. Baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, and racket ball are intense forms of exercise. Less intense activities like playing catch with the kids or practicing a few free throws can be a great way to spend quality time with the family while getting your exercise in.

Resistance Training: Most people think of the gym when resistance training is mentioned, but these exercises may also include hand-held dumbbells, exercise bands, homemade weights, and any weight-bearing activity such as moving heavy boxes.

Functional Exercises: These exercises are closely related to resistance training. Most athletes and weightlifters do both. This area includes balance exercises, squats, reaching activities, chair exercises, and calisthenics.

Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic activities are particularly popular among those trying to lose weight or increase their cardiovascular health. They are also known as cardio. Brisk walking, riding a bike, stationary cycling, swimming, running, using an elliptical machine, and dancing fit into this category.

Flexibility and Core Exercises: This fitness area makes an excellent starting point for beginners who are new to exercise. Yoga classes, stretching maneuvers, and simple rope exercises are an easy way to start.

Exercise Recommendations

The amount of exercise cancer patients are capable of depends on the type of cancer you have, your current physical condition, strengths, weaknesses, and the degree of side effects. Current recommendations are that patients get 20 to 30 minutes of moderate activity per day, those who require surgery will have more physical restrictions than those undergoing chemotherapy. Staying active can improve your mood, confidence, and sleeping habits as well as the fatigue and nausea associated with radiation and chemotherapy.

David Haas is a cancer support group and awareness program advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. He contributed this article to healthyblackmen.org. Find more of his and other work at mesothelioma.com.

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