Benefits of Exercising With Cancer

One of my clients was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer. He was in his early forties when he received the diagnosis. After major surgery (to remove the cancerous mass), he had many chemotherapy treatments. Other than his positive outlook on life, one thing that helped him to maintain his quality of life is exercise. His exercise regimen primarily consisted of strength training, yoga and walking. Because of exercising, he was able to continue working and keep living a normal life while going through the arduous chemotherapy treatments. The primary goal of exercise for cancer patients is to maintain strength, range of motion, weight, energy level and normal breathing. In dealing with the cancer and treatments, my client had many ups and downs but because of his dedication to exercise, overall, he was able to maintain all of these qualities.

The old guidelines for cancer patients recommended rest. It has since been found that being sedentary for a prolonged period can be detrimental and contribute to health complications for cancer patients. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the new guidelines recommend that cancer patients avoid inactivity and strongly recommend exercise. Exercise will help lessen fatigue and offer many other benefits including:

  • Decrease fat mass; increase lean mass
  • Alleviate symptoms including nausea
  • Less depression, anxiety, emotional distress, pain
  • Increase muscle mass, strength and endurance
  • Improve physical functioning
  • Enhance bone health and heart health
  • Improve appetite
  • Better sleep

Although it is vital for people with cancer to exercise, there is not a “one size fits all” exercise routine. Many factors must be considered before beginning an exercise program. Some of the factors include age, type of cancer, surgery, cancer treatments, current energy level, and whether or not the individual has a low red blood cell count, a low white blood cell count, or a low platelet count. Before pursuing an exercise regimen, the individual must receive written consent from his or her doctor. The doctor will determine when the person can begin exercise and what limitations the person has, if any. Once the doctor has given consent, I then work with the individual to determine his or her goals and create a customized exercise program to achieve those goals.

In addition to exercise, nutrition is vitally important in fighting cancer and preventing recurrence. One main objective of making dietary changes is decreasing systemic inflammation. This may sound difficult, but it has an immense impact on the immune system and on body’s ability to heal. By adding more fresh fruits and vegetables in your regular diet, you can greatly reduce inflammation in your body. Not only does eating fresh fruits and vegetables improve your immune system, but it helps decrease inflammation, supports heart health, and offers many other health benefits

Most of us have been affected by cancer in some way. Perhaps you have been diagnosed with it, or know someone who has. Cancer can be an extremely traumatic experience, both emotionally and physically. Several people throughout my life have succumbed including an uncle who lost his battle with skin cancer. Others are survivors including one of my parents who survived colon cancer. Learning about and regularly performing the right exercises contribute to the best cancer outcomes possible.