Exercise Helps Cancer Patients Deal with Side Effects of Treatment

Exercise Helps Cancer Patients Deal with Side Effects of Treatment

A diagnosis of cancer is certainly a life-altering event. Dealing with cancer and the side effects from aggressive therapies used to treat it is never easy, but with a positive outlook and support from family and friends it becomes a little more bearable to cope with. It may come as a surprise to some, but another effective way to help deal with side effects is to exercise.

In the past, people being treated for a chronic illness were often told to rest and reduce their physical activity; however, too much rest can lead to loss of body function, muscle weakness, and reduced range of motion. Exercising may be the last thing on the mind of someone who is dealing with cancer, but according to the Oncology Nursing Society, research has found that exercise has proven to be an effective management tool for dealing with side effects from cancer treatment.

Side effects from cancer treatment include weakness, fatigue, nausea, pain and depression, often resulting in a decline in the quality of life for patients. Exercise can improve the quality of life for patients and also improve how well they function physically.

As awareness advocate Melanie Bowen states in the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog post on exercises for cancer patients, staying active while going through treatment can be a tremendous challenge. I recommend patients have a health care provider guide them through an exercise program to meet their interests and needs.

Melanie suggests a low-impact summer exercise program for cancer patients, which include the following fitness activities:

Walking: Start with 10 minutes a day and work your way up from there. Walk outside to enjoy the fresh air and scenery. I recommend a walk along the beach. The ocean can give you a feeling of relaxation and tranquility. If you are not able to get to the beach, a stroll in the park is also a nice idea.

Swimming: This is a great way to tone all your major muscle groups and strengthen your heart. Go swimming in an outdoor pool or join a health club.

Dancing: Dancing is a great form of aerobic exercise. Melanie recommends line dancing, zumba or dancing in your living room.

Lifting light weights: A personal trainer can work with you on how much weight you should be lifting, depending on you are capable of. Before you pick up any weights, seek advice from your health care provider.

Yoga: This will get you stretching, moving and feeling good. I recommend looking for a beginner’s yoga class in your area. You can also do yoga right at home with an instructional video.

The key is to start out slowly. You can build up your strength and endurance a little bit at a time. Doing too much too soon is never a good thing. Also, be sure to keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water, especially if you are outside in the heat or doing an activity causing you to sweat.  If you are in any severe pain while exercising, stop the activity and contact your health care provider immediately.