The Importance of Exercise – Before, During and After Cancer Treatments

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May 3, 2018
Exercise throughout Cancer Journey

Did you know that exercise is one of the most important actions you can take during your cancer treatment? It’s true!

New research has shown that exercise before, during, and after cancer treatments can:

  • Help alleviate side effects of cancer treatment, such as fatigue, pain, and bone and muscle loss
  • Fuel your appetite
  • Improve your quality of life by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Reduce the risk of cancer recurrence
  • Help sustain your heart health
  • Maintain or improve your physical abilities
  • Boost your self-image and confidence
  • Help control your weight 

This doesn’t mean cancer patients shouldn’t take time to rest. It simply means that adding some form of regular exercise to your daily life–even during cancer treatments–can be a wise move in improving your cancer care.

How much exercise is too much?

An exercise program should be based on what’s safe and effective for the cancer patient. It should also be something that’s enjoyable. Since certain factors like the type and stage of your cancer or the amount of stamina you have may limit what you can handle, you may want to talk with your oncologist(s) before beginning a specific exercise regimen.

For cancer survivors (those who are no longer receiving treatment), The American Cancer Society recommends aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week. Strength training should account for at least two of those days. Start slowly and progress incrementally. As you get stronger, try to increase the amount of time you spend exercising as well as the intensity of your activities.

Patients currently going through cancer treatment should never push themselves. Talking with your cancer specialist is a good way to set guidelines on an acceptable amount of exercise.  

Getting Started

It’s important to remember that you can do this! Even a little exercise is better than no exercise, so start slowly and be consistent.

Some ways you can be more physically active throughout and after your cancer treatment according to The American Cancer Society may include:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Going dancing
  • Weeding the garden
  • Mowing the grass
  • Playing active games with children such as freeze tag or jump rope
  • Walking or biking to your destination
  • Working out to a DVD or doing stretches and weight-lifting while watching TV

To avoid boredom, vary your routine or exercise with a friend.

Remember, only do what you can handle. While the goal is to be more active, it is important to keep it safe, fun, and manageable.

The sooner you start exercising, the better you’ll feel.