When you first get diagnosed with cancer, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. However, it can be a tool to help you regain your sense of control over your body as well as improve your physical and mental health. Regular exercise can provide enjoyment and an escape, perhaps, from the rigors of treatment. When tailored to your cancer situation, exercise can:
- Keep or improve you physical abilities
- Improve your balance and lower your risk of falls and broken falls
- Lower risks of other diseases such as heart disease or osteoporosis
- Reduce muscle weakness and decreased range of motion due to inactivity
- Improve blood flow to legs and lower risk of blood clots
- Improve ability to complete normal activities of daily living
- Improve self-esteem
- Lower the risk of anxiety and depression
- Ease side effects. Click here see to how to start exercising to lessen some side effects.
- Reduce risk of cancer recurrence
- Improve your quality of life
Some beneficial exercises that cancer patients can look into include:
- Flexibility exercises: A regular stretching exercise helps your joints keep their full range of motion and will assist you in maintaining your ability to keep up with your daily activities. Stretching can be something you can do even if you haven’t been regularly physically active or you are feeling more tired than usual. Try incorporating it in your daily routine such as when you first wake up or before you work out.
- Aerobic exercise: Aerobic exercise consists of activities that help get your heart rate up at a safe level and keeps it there for a period of time (examples include walking, biking, jogging, vacuuming, dancing, etc). This kind of exercise burns calories to help you lose or maintain your weight, improves your mood, and strengthens your heart and lungs. By building your cardiovascular fitness, aerobic exercise also helps lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. Some chemotherapy may affect the heart so be sure to check with your doctor to ensure that your heart is healthy enough to tolerate the more intensive aerobic exercises.
- Resistance training: This involves working your muscles against some weight or resistance to help build strength. Activities include lifting weights or other weight bearing exercises. Cancer treatment oftentimes may cause a decrease in muscle mass and bone density. Resistance training helps to maintain muscle or reduce the amount lost during cancer treatment. Make sure to check with your health care team prior to engaging in weight lighting activities.
- Mind-body exercises: This is form of exercise that combines body movement with a mental focus as well as controlled breathing to improve strength, balance, flexibility, and overall health, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Examples of this can include yoga, Tai Chi, NIA, and many other variations. For more information on mind-body exercises click here.