Thursday, May 10, 2012

How Fitness and Exercise can Benefit Cancer Patients and Survivors

   One of the farthest thoughts from your mind while undergoing the challenges and stress of cancer diagnosis, symptoms and treatment is fitness and exercise.

 However, being physically active during cancer can play an important role in your recovery, fitness level as well as your emotional, social and overall well being. 

If you are receiving treatment for mesothelioma, breast cancer or for other types of cancers, you may be concerned about the risks of injury during exercise. However, with the help of your oncologist and a trained fitness professional, you should reap the many benefits from being involved in a fitness program.

Important Benefits of Fitness

Whether you have just been diagnosed, currently undergoing treatment or your cancer is in remission, being healthy and able to cope with this disease are some important goals. Participating in fitness and exercise may offer some advantages to help you achieve these goals, including:

●Improved endurance, strength and fitness level,
●Increased self-esteem and more independence,
●Better weight management and improved body image,
●Decreased side effects such as fatigue, insomnia, vomiting and nausea,
●Reduced risks of diabetes and heart disease,
●Improved mood and your overall outlook on life.

While fitness and exercise is not a cure for cancer, it improves the cancer survivors’ quality of life. According to the National Cancer Institute’s website at, studies have shown that being physically active may help to extend the cancer patient’s life expectancy and reduce the risk of recurrence of some cancers. However, research in this area is ongoing.

Types of Fitness Programs

Including exercise soon after cancer diagnosis and treatment is recommended to help with recovery. It also reduces the dangers of settling into a sedentary lifestyle, which is easily done when you are feeling physically and psychologically weak. The kinds of exercises that cancer patients and survivors should engage in will vary depending on the type of cancer, treatment and health condition. Before, beginning any exercise program, you should get your doctor’s approval.

You should start slowing by doing moderate physical activities to regain and build your strength and then gradually increase the intensity. Some activities may include yoga, walking, dancing, stretching and tending the garden. You can easily stay home and do exercises by increasing activities throughout the day. Some activities that you may substitute include:

•Using the stairs instead of the elevator,
•Wearing a pedometer daily to increase your steps,
•Using a treadmill, stationery bike or doing stretches while watching TV,
•Taking 15 minute breaks throughout the day to walk and stretch,
•Walking to visit neighbors and co-workers’ offices instead of using the telephone.

Although being involved in fitness and exercise during and after cancer treatment may be an uphill task for many, the ultimate benefits usually outweigh the discomforts experienced. However, you should get guidance from your oncologist or certified fitness instructor to avoid injury and overexertion. In addition to fitness, nutrition also plays a significant role in coping with cancer whether you have just been diagnosed, undergoing treatment or in the remission stage.

Guest Post by:
David Haas
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

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