Surviving cancer and making it through cancer treatment are major accomplishments. Most, if not all, survivors find a new priority in life: keeping cancer from returning. The latest research suggests that exercise for cancer patients may help. If you’ve made it through the rough road of cancer diagnosis and treatment, you’re probably thinking about what you can do to stay healthy. But just what is the best way to get fit, and maximize your long-term health?
General Recommendations for a Healthy Lifestyle:
Basically, one would need to maintain a proper weight or body mass index of 21-24 to have a reduced risk of cancer. To achieve this, a proper diet must be observed consistently along with sports activities. As much as possible, it is recommended to eat more fruits and vegetables and less red meat.
At all costs, processed meat and high levels of sweet foods must be avoided. One should also minimize alcohol intake, with the suggested amount of only 1-2 glasses per day. These recommendations must be taken very seriously, especially in people who have a high risk of developing cancer.
Exercise as a cancer treatment for cancer patients. When to start?
When should you start exercising after cancer diagnosis and treatment? As soon as possible.
Studies show that after a cancer diagnosis, people slow down. Stress, depression, and feeling sick or fatigued from cancer or its treatment all tend to make people less active.
The problem is, most people stay sedentary after treatment
As a long-term solution to the problem of fatigue, taking it easy and avoiding activity is not a good solution. It is important for cancer survivors to get back to exercising to help their recovery.
In other words: if you’ve down-shifted your activity level since your cancer diagnosis, now is the time to rev back up.
Exercise for Cancer Patients: What to Do
Every person’s situation is different. Before starting a moderate to vigorous exercise program, see your doctor.
The following types of exercise can help cancer patients – and everyone else – get back in shape:
- Flexibility exercises (stretching). Virtually everyone can do flexibility exercises. Stretching is important to keep moving, to maintain mobility. If you’re not yet ready for more vigorous exercise, you should at least stay flexible.
- Aerobic exercises, such as brisk walking, jogging, and swimming. This kind of exercise burns calories and helps you lose weight. Aerobic exercise also builds cardiovascular fitness, which lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
- Resistance training (Iifting weights or isometric exercise), which builds muscle. Many people lose muscle, but gain fat, through cancer treatment. For those with a high fat-to-lean mass ratio,resistance training can be especially helpful as a part of cancer treatment.
Ideally, cancer survivors should do aerobic exercises and weight training. Both types of exercise are critical to the overall health and well-being of cancer survivors.
Exercise as a cancer treatment for Cancer Patients. How much and How hard?
For the general population, the American Cancer Society recommends at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 5 days a week.
This amount of exercise is proven to reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Experts say it that it should also be beneficial for cancer patients.
Unless you’re already very active, though, you shouldn’t expect yourself to achieve this right away. As with anything else, the key is to set small, achievable goals and build on your successes.
If you’ve already been active — keep it up! If you haven’t been active, start slowly, but start something.
Try to find an activity you enjoy. You may want to buddy up with someone at the same fitness level. Having a friend to work out with will increase your motivation.
Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged. Doing anything is better than doing nothing.
The key is to start slowly and build your body’s energy over time. Your body has been through a lot and it is necessary to challenge it gradually.
You can increase your physical activity without joining a gym, or even leaving the house. Just building more activity into your daily routine can get you started. Here are a few suggestions:
- Take the stairs instead of riding the elevator.
- Buy a pedometer (step counter) and increase your number of steps daily.
- Take frequent breaks throughout the day to stand, stretch, and take short walks.
- Check the pantry. Lifting cans, detergent bottles, or anything heavy will build muscle. Do three sets of 10 lifts, or until you feel your muscles tiring.
What if you’re just too exhausted to exercise?
Sometimes fatigue can be so severe that it is good to rest temporarily. Rest for awhile, start again slowly and build up. Your energy level will increase, over the long term.