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How Physical Exercise Can Help Cancer Patients

This weekend, I walked about three miles in late winter in Seattle by the water. While cold enough to warrant a hat, gloves, and coat, the sun was shining, and there were joggers, dog walkers, and inline skaters zipping by. For fair-weather only exercise people, the first blooms of spring on the trees and the sun peaking out of our normal gloomy clouds are cause for celebration. For people with cancer, physical exercise is a necessary component of the recovery process. Read guest blogger Liz Davies post about how physical exercise can help cancer patients. Even if you don’t have cancer, Spring is a great time to renew your commitment to improve your physical and mental health, and a great way to do that is to start with exercise. [Imei Hsu, Editor]

Can Physical Activity Help After Cancer?  by Liz Davies March 6, 2012

Cancer treatments and the cancer itself take a big toll on the human body. People who have overcome the deadly disease make preventing reoccurrence their number one concern. Luckily there are ways to combat reoccurrence. Studies have shown that a regular exercise routine can extend the lives of patients and help in preventing cancer from coming back.

Exercise is an important part of life for cancer patients. Learn why.

With exhaustion being a main side effect of treatment, it is often hard to find the motivation to begin. Light physical activities that work many muscle groups such as walking, taking the stairs instead of the escalator, or putting groceries away, can aid in rebuilding energy levels. Doing exercises that are inside a patient’s comfort level is important; cancer patients who over-exert themselves will not see the greatest of benefits.

The most useful activities for cancer patients are cardio workouts and strength training. Strength training like weight lifting or resistance training is very important because muscle is often lost during treatment, and it is essential to build it back up. A recommended exercise regimen includes about a half of an hour of moderate exercise five times a week (American Cancer Society).

Diet and weight management are just as important as exercise for the long term well-being of someone who has, or had cancer. Boosting energy and maintaining a healthy weight are important and these things will also help prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Life expectancy is increased for anyone who is in shape over those who are inactive. This is true for anyone, not just cancer patients.

It is necessary for cancer patients who wish to start a daily exercise regimen to consult with a doctor or trainer who specializes in working with cancer patients to ensure the patient is doing the right exercises and aiming for the right level of activity. To keep motivation levels up cancer patients can join an exercise group or find someone who is at a comparable fitness level. With exercise, the best approach is to take things slowly and remember that any exercise is better than none!

Beating cancer is like getting a second chance at life, and that chance should be used for all it’s worth. Having a strong mindset is critical, whether you are going though mesothelioma treatment, or you have just conquered breast cancer. Finding the time and motivation to exercise and improve health is an activity everyone needs to fit in their busy schedules.

Now it’s your turn. Are you or someone you know recovering from cancer? Is it hard to think about exercise when you feel so tired? Does it seem counter-intuitive to exercise after cancer treatment? What do you do to find motivation to incorporate cardiovascular and strength training after fighting cancer?

More about this blogger: Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. During the last year of her education she worked at her school’s Recreation and Wellness Center. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April.

By Imei Hsu

Imei Hsu is a mental health counselor, active retired RN, writer, triathlete and arts promoter in the Seattle area and through online services. With 29+ years in healthcare (20+ years in mental health), Imei has a commitment to helping people discover insight into their health, relationships, and connecting. She is the owner of Seattle Direct Counseling and the blog, a presenter and speaker on a variety of psychological topics, and a positive force on the Internet. She is launched her personal project, My Allergy Advocate, in 2018. Imei is two-time Ironman Finisher (Mont-Tremblant 2016, Ironman Canada 2018), and is currently training for her third Ironman in August 2020; she also finished her first ultramarathon in 2017 and has gone on to race the 100K distance while preparing for two separate 100 Mile trail races in 2020. You can find her running everywhere and eating all the thingz, watching movies, and cooking real food.

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