In the past, cancer patients were advised to get plenty of rest during treatment. But too much rest can cause muscle weakness, reduced range motion, and loss of body function. In fact, recent studies show that exercise is not only possible and safe but also improves the health and mental well-being of cancer patients.
The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) issued formal guidelines recommending that exercise should be prescribed to all cancer patients as a standard practice of cancer care, to help manage the side effects of cancer and its treatments. The Exercise & Sport Science Australia (ESSA) also concur. A new Rutgers study also shows that aerobic exercises can help cancer patients fight fatigue, reduce systemic inflammation, and maintain a healthy weight.
This, however, doesn’t mean you should run a marathon. Low to moderate physical activity such as a walk routine or yoga can make all the difference. So, what should be in your exercise programme? The key to effective and safe exercise programmes is to incorporate a variety of different types of exercises, including breathing exercises, stretching, balance exercises, aerobics, and strength training. Everyone’s situation is different, which is why you should see your doctor before starting any exercise programme. An exercise specialist can also help you design the right exercise programme for you.
How Exercise Can Help During Cancer Treatments
1) It Reduces Fatigue
Fatigue is a common side effect of cancer treatments. It can be physical, cognitive, and/or emotional. Physical activity can boost energy levels, which in turn reduces cancer-related fatigue. It might require much effort to get started, but exercise is bound to reduce fatigue in the long run. Shorter, more frequent sessions are more manageable. Be sure to do low-intensity exercises when you feel excessive fatigue.
2) Help With Sleep
Cancer treatment side effects such as nausea, fatigue, pain, diarrhoea, and mouth sores can make it difficult for one to get a good night’s sleep. Plus, receiving a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment can be quite stressful, causing cancer-related insomnia. We all know how important sleep is to our physical and mental well-being. The post-exercise drop in temperature has calming effects, which reduces feelings of anxiety and depression. This allows you to fall asleep much faster and avoid cancer-related insomnia.
3) Boost Confidence
Cancer treatments can bring on visible physical changes like hair loss, weight loss/gain, skin damage, scarring from surgery, swelling, and/or breast loss from a mastectomy. This can change the way you feel about your body –your self-esteem. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals that leave you feeling happy and better about yourself.
4) It Increases Effectiveness
Exercise improves blood circulation. Since the drugs used in chemotherapy are transported via the bloodstream, exercise can ensure they are delivered more effectively and faster to the affected cells. This could mean a speedy recovery.
5) Improves Physical Health
Although cancer treatments attack cancer cells, they also damage healthy cells around the infected area, including red and white blood cells. This means that they can cause damage to the heart, lungs, and other body organs, as well as hinder the body’s natural ability to fight infection. Regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure, build muscles, strengthen bones, reduce the risk of a heart attack, and so on. Needless to say, exercise can improve a cancer patient’s physical well-being.