Benefits of exercise for cancer patients
The American College of Sports Medicine convened a panel of 13 researchers with expertise in cancer, fitness, obesity and exercise training to develop guidelines on exercise and physical activity for cancer patients. The panel’s main piece of advice was to avoid inactivity.
With proper guidance, exercise during cancer treatment can improve your quality of life and how well you function physically.
Other benefits may include:
- Improved balance and reduced fall risk
- Maintained muscle tone
- Improved self-esteem
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduced nausea
- Less fatigue
But, even if you were physically active before your diagnosis, be sure to carefully ease in to any type of exercise. It’s critical that you consult with your medical care team and an exercise physiologist before starting any physical activity. (Find an exercise physiologist certified in working with cancer patients here.)
The type of cancer you have and the type of treatments you are undergoing play a role in your fitness regimen. The panel suggested adaptations in exercise for people with different types of cancer based on common adverse effects of treatment, including increased risk of bone fractures and cardiac side effects.
The most important thing you should focus on is participating in some level of physical activity, not the intensity and type of exercise you choose. In fact, you should not be participating in high-intensity training programs. Moderate cardiovascular exercise, such as taking a daily walk or a low-impact aerobics class, coupled with light strength training, can enhance physical well-being and help with recovery. Yoga is also a popular and effective form of exercise for cancer patients.
The bottom line: listen to your body. If you are feeling pain, your heart is racing or you are light-headed, stop and consult your physician before continuing.