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Get more tips on how to exercise to tolerate treatment

Another weapon in the fight against cancer

An Internet search on exercise will result in numerous articles about how to whittle your middle and tone your trouble spots. But exercise is not just for weight loss. Studies have shown that physical activity is beneficial during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Exercise is not only safe and feasible during cancer treatment, it can improve your ability to tolerate your treatment, perform your daily activities, minimize fatigue, and decrease stress and depression. It can also minimize post treatment bone and muscle loss, speeding recovery. If you were not active before diagnosis, start low and go slow. Focus on low-intensity activities such as walking or stretching for at least 10 minutes at a time. If you are a regular exerciser, remember you may need to lower the intensity and duration of exercise during treatment.

Once treatment is completed, regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and death in people with breast, colorectal, prostate and ovarian cancer. But some cancer treatments can leave you feeling weak and unsteady. Exercise, including aerobic and resistance training can improve muscle strength, cardiopulmonary fitness and balance. Check with your physician before starting an exercise routine to see if you should take extra precautions, especially if you are severely anemic, have a compromised immune system, have longer-term catheters or feeding tubes, or have peripheral neuropathies.

Your take-home message:

  • avoid inactivity during treatment
  • stay as physically active as possible during treatment
  • increase the intensity and duration of physical activity once treatment is complete

Work towards a goal of 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity with at least two days of muscle strengthening exercises per week. Remember that some activity is better than no activity, so whether you get 10 minutes or 60 minutes in a day, just move.

Exercise to Tolerate Treatment

The key to making exercise stick is making it fun. If you like to talk, walk with friends and make it a social event. If you like music, a dance class may be a good idea for you. If you have kids, choose family-friendly activities like bike rides, nature hikes, playing catch, a game of hoops or kicking a soccer ball. Another key is fitting physical activity in every day, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to a colleague’s office instead of sending an email or purposely choosing a parking place farther away from your destination for a little walk.

Examples of moderate exercises

  • Ballroom and line dancing
  • Biking on level ground or with few hills
  • Canoeing
  • General gardening
  • Doubles tennis
  • Walking briskly
  • Water aerobics
  • Using a manual wheelchair
  • Using hand cyclers

Special precautions for Cancer Survivors

Severe Anemia
Daily exercise other than activities of daily living until anemia improved

Compromised immune function
Avoid public gyms and public pools.

Bone Marrow Transplant
Avoid public gyms and pools for 1 year after transplantation.

Avoid chlorine exposure (pools, hot tubs)

Indwelling catheters or feeding tubes
Avoid pool, lake or ocean water
Avoid resistance training of muscles in the area of the catheter

Peripheral neuropathies or ataxia
Due to weakness or loss of balance, exercise using support such as a stationary reclining bicycle or walking with a walker.

Continue reading the Summer, 2013 issue of Thrive.

Continue reading about coping with cancer treatment and cancer survivorship

Getting Back to Your Life as Usual

Long-term Effects: Nearly all cancer survivors cope with long-term effects of treatment

Tired of being tired: Symptom Management and Supportive Care Clinic helps patients fight fatigue and other side effects of treatment

Physical Rehabilitation and Cancer Symptom Management

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    Thrive Issue: 
    Summer, 2013