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Exercise Improves Quality of Life of Cancer Patients


Straight Talk about Mesothelioma, a blog series created by Michael T. Milano, M.D., Ph.D., a radiation oncology specialist, as a resource for mesothelioma patients and their loved ones.

It may seem counterintuitive for a doctor to encourage a patient who is battling cancer to get some exercise. But the latest thinking is that exercise is safe even in the midst of cancer treatment, and can improve a patient’s physical functioning as well as his or her quality of life. The American Cancer Activity recommends that cancer survivors:

  • Take part in regular physical activity
  • Avoid inactivity
  • Return to normal daily activities as soon as possible after diagnosis
  • Set a goal of exercising at least 150 minutes per week
  • Incorporate strength training into the exercise routine at least twice per week

If you think about it, it makes sense. Too much time in bed can result in weakened, stiff muscles and loss of body function. So don’t be surprised if your medical care team urges you to get up and get active. Here are just a few of the benefits of regular exercise during and after cancer treatment:

  • Better balance
  • Greater self-esteem
  • Higher energy
  • Improved mood
  • Lowered risk of heart disease and osteoporosis (weak bones)
  • Lower weight
  • More independence
  • Reduced risk of blood clots
  • Reduced nausea
  • Stronger and more flexible muscles

How to Get Started

By now I hope it goes without saying that you’ll want to check in with your medical care team before embarking on any type of exercise program. They will be able to help you to tailor a program to meet your needs and abilities. Once you get your doctor’s OK, you can either slowly begin a new regime or resume your previous activities. Some patients will be able to exercise on their own; others will need the help of an aid or caregiver to assist with balance and to keep them safe. Here are a few additional tips for getting started:

  • Always start with a 2-3 minute warm-up. Arm circles, shoulder shrugs, and marching are all good warm-up exercises.
  • Take it slow. If you have been completely sedentary, exercising even a few minutes a day will be beneficial. You can increase the duration of your exercise slowly.
  • Listen to your body. Exercise as you are able. You don’t want to push yourself, especially while you are undergoing treatment.
  • Choose exercises that use your large muscle groups such as thighs, belly, back, and chest.
  • Add exercises that increase flexibility and range of motion, such as yoga and deep stretches.
  • Also incorporate exercises that keep muscles toned and add to bone strength, such as working with light weights and/or resistance bands.

Next article in this series: “Proper Nutrition Provides Energy to Fight Mesothelioma”

Dr. Milano is a sponsored contributor to Mesothelioma Help Now.