Staying Active During Cancer Treatment

In the past, patients with chronic illnesses were advised to rest and reduce their physical activity. This was understandable for those who experienced pain due to movement, rapid heart rate or shortness of breath. But today research shows that exercise is not only possible during cancer treatment, but also improves your quality of life.

Too much inactivity can be detrimental; patients avoiding all exercise risk losing body function, muscle weakness and reducing  range of motion.

How Exercise Helps

Regular, moderate exercise has numerous benefits—even during treatment.

  • Exercise improves your physical mobility
  • It improves or protects your balance and lowers your risk of a fall
  • Protects muscles from atrophy
  • Lowers the risk of heart disease
  • Lessens the risk of osteoporosis
  • Improves blood flow to your legs and lowers the risk of blood clots
  • Raises your self-esteem and lowers the risk of being depressed or anxious
  • Lessens nausea and fatigue
  • Supports weight control

Choosing Your Physical Activity

There are two types of physical activity:

Aerobic, which uses more oxygen and improves the way your heart works, and

Anaerobic, which increases muscle strength and mass.

Both have benefits for cancer patients. And here are a few, simple exercises of each type you can choose from.

Stretching – Stretching is anaerobic activity and an easy way to keep yourself moving and maintain your mobility. Stretching is also great for those who are not yet ready for more vigorous exercise.

Walking, jogging and swimming – These aerobic exercises burn calories and help you lose weight. They also help you build cardiovascular fitness, which lowers the risk of diabetes, stroke and heart attack.

Lifting weights or isometric exercise – Anaerobic resistance training builds muscles, which is great for cancer patients who may have a tendency to lose muscle and gain fat during their treatment. Speed things up and you can also make this an aerobic exercise session.

Even so-called “daily” physical activities of moderate or vigorous intensity can be beneficial. So it’s easy to build movement and healthy activity into your daily routine.

Here are a few options you might not have considered:

  • Walk after dinner
  • Ride a bike
  • Mow the grass or rake the leaves
  • Wash your car
  • Walk your dog
  • Scrub your bathroom
  • Play outdoors with your kids or grandchildren
  • Weed your garden or landscaping
  • Go dancing
  • Use a treadmill or an exercise bike
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator

The idea is to keep moving without overworking yourself. Keep up as much activity as you find pleasing but not so much that you’re physically wiped out. Find exercises and activities that are enjoyable so you’re more likely to stick to them. Keep it safe and fun!

More than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us to get a second opinion so you, too, can experience the difference!