Exercise for Cancer Patients

Yoga class The traditional wisdom has always been that patients and survivors should get as much rest as possible. Just relax until your body heals completely. Rushing back into an active lifestyle could actually jeopardize your health. But exercise for cancer patients can be as important as medical treatment and nutrition. Recent studies suggest increased physical activity is precisely what the body needs – both during cancer treatment and afterward, in recovery. Regular exercise not only results in higher survival rates post diagnosis, it also reduces the likelihood of cancer returning during the remission stages. So what are the best exercises for cancer patients? Not surprisingly, many of the best exercises are similar to those you enjoy while healthy.

Exercise During Cancer Treatment: Building Flexibility, Strength, and Endurance

When designing an exercise regimen, experts recommend adhering to the 2008 federal Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans – a set of routines that includes:

  • Flexibility training (i.e. yoga and stretching)
  • Aerobic training (i.e. running, jugging, swimming, biking)
  • Strength training (i.e. weight lifting, pushups, sit-ups)

Ideally, you should follow the above routines 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes each session. But it’s important that you not overexert yourself – especially during the early stages. Start slowly at first and give your energy levels and muscle tissue time to adjust to the training. As your fatigue goes away and your body becomes stronger, it’s safe to scale up accordingly.

When Is the Best Time to Begin Exercising During Cancer Treatment?

Believe it or not, the best time to jump back into exercise is right now. It’s not simply that physical training is beneficial. Prolonged inactivity is actually detrimental to the cancer treatment and recovery processes. But before jumping in, make sure you consult with your physician about any potential risks that exercise might pose. Every case is unique. And there are sometimes mitigating circumstances that could delay one’s transition back into an active lifestyle. However, in the majority of instances, the “health” risks that cancer patients and survivors face are no different than those faced by the general population. Sprains, stiffness, and soreness represent the biggest potential obstacles for most.

Optimizing Your Exercise Efforts

Want to get the most out of your exercise routine? Complement your training with plenty of sleep and a well-rounded diet:

  • Whole grains, fresh vegetables, seasonal fruits, and lean protein (i.e. chicken and fish) are critical components of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Getting lots of sleep will help your muscles heal more quickly in between each training session.

While exercise for cancer patients can help maintain strength and flexibility, your body needs time to recover, especially given the stresses of treatment. Remember, even when it comes exercise, cancer may require you to make lifestyle changes. Pace yourself. Listen to your body.

Need More Cancer-related Exercise and Training Advice?

Have more questions about safe exercise routines during the cancer treatment or recovery process? Contact us today to schedule a consultation. We'll discuss exercise, nutrition, and other aspects of an integrative cancer treatment program.

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