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Exercise is an essential part of a cancer treatment plan. A growing amount of research shows that regular exercise can significantly improve physical and mental health during every treatment phase. Even if you were not active before your cancer diagnosis, an exercise program that meets your unique needs could help you get moving safely and successfully.
Exercise can help cancer patients maximize health for the long term. There’s an abundance of evidence that exercise and eating right can help prevent people from getting cancer. The latest information shows that exercise for cancer patients can also keep cancer from recurring.
Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Adults urge everyone to move more and sit less. Physical activity is any activity that gets your body moving and speeds up your breathing and heartbeat. It includes not only structured exercise sessions but also everyday activities, such as housework.
General Benefits of Exercise
Whether you are currently in treatment or not, you can get the following benefits as long as you do a regular exercise plan. (1)
- Lower the chance of having physical side effects such as fatigue, neuropathy, lymphedema, osteoporosis and nausea
- Reduce the risk of depression and anxiety
- Keep you as mobile and independent as possible
- Improve your balance to reduce fall injuries
- Prevent muscle loss and build strength
- Prevent weight gain and obesity, which are linked to increased cancer risk
- Improve sleep
- Decrease the amount of time you need to stay in the hospital
- Make your treatment more effective at destroying tumour cells
- Improve survival rates for certain cancers, such as breast cancer and colorectal cancer
- Reduce the risk of other cancers
- Prevent other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes
- Improve the quality of life
Should people with cancer exercise?
People with cancer should be as physically active as their abilities and condition allow. Some days may be more challenging than others, but even a few minutes of light exercise is better than no exercise at all. You may want to work out two different exercise plans – one for your good days and another for those days when you are experiencing side effects.
It doesn’t matter what exercise you do. The important thing is that you do something you enjoy. This fact will help you to stay motivated. It can also help to alternate the types of exercise you do to keep it interesting. (2)
Activities you might like to try:
- dragon boating
- group sport such as netball
- gym classes, such as aerobics or step classes
- lifting lightweights
- swimming or water aerobics
- walking or jogging
- yoga or Pilates
It is vital to take precautions while exercising if you have side effects from your cancer or its treatment. You may have to change your exercise plan depending on your specific side effects. For example, if treatment affects the nerves in your hand, weight machines may be safer to use than hand weights, or, if treatment caused bone loss, you should avoid exercises that put a strain on the neck and raise your risk of falling.
You may be at increased risk of bone fracture, for example, if you have low bone mineral density, are menopausal or post-menopausal, are older, or have bone metastases. If you are at an increased risk of bone fracture, avoid high impact exercise and exercises that increase the risk of falling.
You may be at an increased risk of infection, for example, if you are currently undergoing chemotherapy and have a reduced cell count. If you are at an increased risk of disease, check with your medical team before swimming in a public pool.
If you want any more information or assistance on an exercise program, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help guide you through your health and fitness journey.