Exercise During Cancer Treatment

Exercise During Cancer Treatment

National Cancer Wellness Awareness Day is on June 26, 2021! We wanted to share some tips on how to exercise during cancer treatment.

Doctors and medical professionals around the world have always promoted consistent exercise as a way to help and maintain a healthy lifestyle and body weight. This has been proven to be just as important to people undergoing cancer treatment. Many physicians are now encouraging cancer patients to be as active as possible during their treatment and recovery process.

It is incredibly important that you check with your doctor before starting any exercise program, even if you have exercised prior to your diagnosis. Meet with a physical therapist or healthcare professional, they can help you create an exercise regime that is safe, effective and engaging to you. Programs should be based on what is safe for the individual and their needs. Being active can boost energy, trigger appetite, and help with sleep, stress and anxiety. Exercise is also shown to help reduce treatment side effects such as nausea, fatigue and constipation in some patients.

Try to include activities that use large muscle groups, strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness components. Mild activities such as walking, yoga and very light weight lifting are good places to begin. Tasks such as housekeeping and gardening both provide a light physical workout. Swimming is also a great activity that provides a good workout while taking pressure off your joints. However, if your treatment plan includes radiation therapy, you should refrain from swimming. A public pool can expose you to bacteria that can cause infection and chlorine levels irritate radiated skin.

Precautions to consider while exercising.

  • Do not use heavy weights or do any routine that puts excessive stress on your bones. If you develop swollen ankles, unexplained weight gain or shortness of breath and bleeding, especially if you are taking blood thinners, see your physician immediately.
  • There are also situations where exercising during treatment is not safe. If you have anemia, unrelieved pain, nausea/ vomiting, numbness in your feet or problems with balance, you should avoid exercise.
  • If you have low white blood cell counts or are taking medications that make you unable to fight infection, try to stay away from the public gym until your counts are at safe levels.

Try to exercise a small amount everyday. Sometimes even a few minutes of light stretching can help make you feel a bit better. Begin with warm-up exercises for about 2-3 minutes and be sure to consume plenty of fluids before, during and after your exercise routine. If at any point during your activity, you start to feel weak or tired, stop and rest. If you don’t have the energy to exercise a full half hour, try breaking up your activities into 10 minute intervals with rest points in between.

With some support from your healthcare team, it is possible to maintain a comfortable level of physical activity while undergoing treatment.