Guest Post | How Exercise Helps Cancer Patients by David Haas
To kick-start the Guest Post Series here is an article written by David Haas on the benefits of exercise for Cancer Patients. This subject is one that David is very passionate about, and I feel it is worthy of more attention. Being in a Health Professional myself, it is frustrating at how little exercise is being utilised to help prevent and reduce disease and morbidity.
David is a cancer support group and awareness program advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. In addition to researching the many valuable programs available to our site’s visitors, David often blogs about programs and campaigns underway at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, as well as creative fitness ideas for those dealing with cancer, while creating relationships with similar organizations.
How Regular Exercise Helps Cancer Patients
While traditional treatments including chemotherapy and radiation therapy are notorious for breaking down the bodies cells, there is one form of treatment that is excellent for building the body back up during and after a cancer diagnosis: exercise and physical activity.
No matter what stage a patient is in, exercise is effective in lowering the side effects of treatment including fatigue, depression and osteoporosis. In fact, doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise can lower a patent’s risk of death or recurrence by 30 to 50 percent.
The term “moderate” is relative when talking about cancer patients. An exercise that is usually thought of as moderate—for example gardening—can be especially painful for breast cancer patients who often suffer from sore shoulders following surgery. It’s especially important to start with a lower duration, intensity and frequency of exercises.
In many aspects, the benefits of a regular exercise regimen are the same as for any individual. The American Cancer Society lists additional benefits from exercise as:
- Better balance and a decreased risk of falls and broken bones.
- Improvement of blood flow to lower limbs and decreased risk of forming blood clots.
- Lessen the signs of fatigue.
- Lessen the affect of nausea
- Prevent muscles from wasting due to inactivity.
- Increase of energy.
The idea that exercise can increase a patient’s energy is one that has turned traditional medical advice on it’s head. Previously, doctors have advised recovering patients to refrain from vigorous activity for fear of adding to their fatigue. New reports have found that a regular cardiovascular routine can raise a patient’s energy level.
When it comes to what kind of exercise to do, it depends on the type of cancer the patent has and how mobile they are at each stage of treatment. Upper-body range-of-motion of motion exercises are beneficial for relieving lymphedema, an swelling of the arm following breast cancer surgery.
Cancer patients may be either under weight, as with esophageal cancer patients, or overweight as with many breast cancer patients who experience a weight gain during treatment. An under weight patient will have to have their blood count closely monitored, while an overweight patient will have to deal with the demands of extra cellulose as well as the fatigue that comes with treatment. Fitness for mesothelioma patients can get a little tricky, since cardiovascular exercise puts additional stress on the lungs as well as the heart.
While most patients experience an increased amount of energy and mobility after treatment ends, it’s important to take a cautious approach towards a post cancer exercise program.
Drink plenty of fluids, unless instructed otherwise by your oncologist.
Monitor your blood count closely with your medical team.
Stay away from heavy weights if you have had cancer that spread to the bones, nerve damage, or arthritis.
If your levels of sodium or potassium are low, you should refrain from exercises. This is often the result of vomiting or diarrhea.
Always do an easy warm-up of stretching of slow walking to get the body ready to exercise. Even a person with a low energy level can do 10 minutes of light stretching to get the benefits of exercising. Monitor your blood pressure closely as cardiovascular activity can cause it to rise.
Remember, a cancer patient who is undergoing or has finished treatment should take things slowly. There are no iron-clad guidelines on how much exercise is most effective for cancer patients. At this point, we know that it is good, as long as the body isn’t taxed too far. The goal is to enhance flexibility, energy and muscular strength.
~ David Haas
NOTE FROM Marianne – I’d like to thank David for raising awareness of this important subject and I wish him all the best in his efforts.
I realise that this topic is not one you’d expect from myomytv, but I reckon that exercise and a healthy lifestyle are the best way to prevent and even treat most diseases. Reduce stress in your life and have respect for your body, and health will flow Focus on health.