Exercise for Cancer Patients
Until recently, the notion of exercise for cancer patients was practically unheard of. After all, treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation were known to leave patients weak and exhausted in many cases. With the best intentions, doctors typically advised these individuals to go home, rest, and take it easy.
But today’s doctors underscore the importance of exercise for cancer patients who are undergoing active treatment or who have completed treatment. In fact, moderate physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of cancer recurrence and a longer survival after diagnosis. By helping maintain strength and body function, exercise for cancer patients is vital to sustaining quality of life.
Exercise for Cancer Patients: Types of Activities
Long-term bed rest can cause problems such as weak muscles, stiff and sore joints, and breathing issues. For patients with cancer, exercise helps keep muscles functional, improves energy levels, eases stress and anxiety, and boosts self-confidence. Below are the types of recommended exercises for cancer patients:
Flexibility (stretching) exercises: to improve and maintain mobility
Cardiovascular (aerobic) activity: to help boost the immune system, decrease fatigue, and enhance mood
Strength (resistance) training: to build lean muscle that can be lost during cancer treatment
If you’re confined to bed as a cancer patient, exercise becomes more challenging. In this case, range-of-motion exercises may be recommended. Both active range-of-motion exercises (when you move your joints on your own) and passive range-of-motion exercises (when a caregiver moves your joints for you) are exercises that can be performed without getting out of bed.
Exercise for Cancer Patients: Helpful Tips
If you’re a cancer patient, you can add exercise to your routine by following the guidelines below:
- Before beginning any exercise program, talk to your doctor about appropriate activities and fitness goals.
- Choose activities that are comfortable, accessible, and enjoyable. Start slowly, and build your activity levels gradually.
- Look for programs that provide exercise for patients with cancer in your community. Many health clubs and organizations offer programs taught by specially trained fitness professionals.
- If you're not feeling well, don't hesitate to skip an exercise session or limit your time. Learn to listen to your body and its signals.
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