Benefits of Exercise During Cancer Treatment

We all know that exercise is good for the body, and that does not change when a patient is undergoing cancer treatment.  Certainly, every patient is different and needs to consult their physician about exercise during treatment, but, for the most part, patients can benefit from exercise during treatment.  Exercise has shown to not only be physically beneficial for the body, but it also releases endorphins in the body that can elevate mood as well.  If you have been cleared for physical activity by your physician, and you feel well enough to do so, get out and exercise in whatever way you enjoy.  The point is not to exhaust your body doing something you hate.  The point is to be physically active and get exercise while doing something you enjoy.  It is important to keep your body strong, in shape and in top physical form so that you can fight your cancer to the best of your ability.  The American Cancer Society describes why it is important to exercise during cancer treatment and what the benefits are, “Research strongly suggests that exercise is not only safe during cancer treatment, but it can also improve physical functioning and many aspects of quality of life. Moderate exercise has been shown to improve fatigue (extreme tiredness), anxiety, and self-esteem. It also helps heart and blood vessel fitness, muscle strength, and body composition (how much of your body is made up of fat, bone, or muscle).  People getting chemotherapy and radiation who already exercise may need to do so at a lower intensity and build up more slowly than people who are not getting cancer treatment. The main goal should be to stay as active as possible and slowly increase your level of activity over time after treatment.”  Not only will it boost energy and increase muscle strength, but you will feel good about yourself and the choices you are making for your health.  Additionally, many forms of exercise can also be social activities so that you do not feel isolated during treatment.  Go for a hike with a friend, ride bikes with your family, take an exercise class with a group of people, there are so many ways to enjoy exercise and enjoy staying in shape.

Not only is it important to maintain a level of fitness during treatment, but it is important to maintain your exercise routine after treatment as well.  In fact, there are even studies that show that maintaining an exercise routine during treatment and after can help reduce the chance of certain cancers recurring.  WebMD discusses the research around exercise during and after cancer treatment, “There’s abundant evidence that exercise and eating right can help prevent people from getting cancer. The latest information shows that exercise for cancer patients can also keep cancer from recurring.  “Several recent studies suggest that higher levels of physical activity are associated with a reduced risk of the cancer coming back, and a longer survival after a cancer diagnosis,” said Kerry Courneya, PhD, professor and Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Cancer at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.  In studies of several different cancers, being overweight after completing treatment was associated with shorter survival times and higher risk of cancer recurrence.  Women who exercise after completing breast cancer treatment live longer and have less recurrence, according to recent evidence. Colorectal cancer survivors who exercised lived longer than those who didn’t, two recent clinical trials showed.  “Clearly, any cancer survivor wants to do all they can” to prevent cancer recurrence, says Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society. “Surely some of their goals for healthy living should be around weight control” and exercise, she adds.  What experts suspected has now been proven. As a cancer survivor, exercising could help you live a longer life — free from cancer.”  If your physician says it is ok, make a plan to stay physically active during cancer treatment.  Not only will it improve your physical health but it will help elevate your mood, boost your self esteem and improve your overall health and outlook.  Find something you love doing and get out there and do it!

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