How Cancer Patients Should Exercise During And After Treatment

A few years ago, exercise was not encouraged for patients during cancer treatment. Physicians argued against it saying that the effects were not beneficial. This understanding, however, has changed over the years. New studies have shown that exercise is actually good for cancer patients. The evidence to support this can be seen in the general improvement in the quality of life in test patients, who were put on specific exercise regimens and observed over a period of time. Here’s a quick look at a few things to consider when it comes to exercise for cancer patients:

Exercise During Treatment

Before any exercise, consult your general practitioner on what you can and cannot do. They will refer you to an exercise specialist, e.g. a physiotherapist, and together you two can make a workout plan that works best for you.

Dealing with cancer requires strong will, determination and good mental health. It takes its toll on you and even the strongest can fold. That is why it is important for patients to exercise as it not only makes you physically stronger, but boosts your mood as well as make you stronger mentally.

This is particularly important because cancer in most patients can lead to anxiety and depression. These conditions can be detrimental to the healing process. Exercise has also been proven to be therapeutic for patients by significantly improving:

  • Energy levels
  • Weight and BMI
  • Physical function
  • Overall quality of life

Patients are encouraged to be physically active and perform mild exercises, in particular:

  • Two to three resistance exercise sessions each week e.g. weight lifting. The exercise should be performed in moderate-to-medium intensity. Resistance training helps build muscle and replaces the muscle lost during treatment.
  • At least 75-150 minutes of moderate-vigorous intensity aerobic exercises, e.g. walking and cycling each week. Aerobics can help individuals maintain their cardiovascular fitness and lower their risk of diabetes and stroke.

Exercise After Treatment

Beating cancer is a major achievement. One might ask why continue to exercise when you have already recovered from cancer treatment? To that we say, living healthily never stops! Exercise has been shown to reduce the chances of cancer recurrence. Survivors are also urged to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly to maintain their overall quality of life and to avoid putting themselves at risk of other serious chronic diseases like hypertension.

Below are some components of a post-cancer treatment plan:

  • Do strength training at least twice a week.
  • Return to normal daily activities as soon as you are declared cancer-free
  • Eat a balanced diet. Consult your dietitian on what foods to eat to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Remember, exercise and diet go hand in hand!

How To Stay Motivated While Working Out

Staying motivated can be hard while exercising. The mental and physical exhaustion are no joke! It is therefore important to think of the following factors while exercising:

  • Remember why you are exercising in the first place.
  • Set a target goal for yourself. It can be on your smart phone or notepad.
  • Surround yourself with people that encourage and love you e.g. family. No man is an island!

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