Cancer and Exercise

Cancer and Exercise
From Good Samaritans Exercise Physical Therapist Jessica Stutzman
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Newer research has shown that exercise is beneficial and safe during and after cancer treatment.  Exercise can improve how well you function physically and therefore your quality of life.

Too much rest can lead to loss of body function, muscle weakness, and reduced range of motion. Many cancer care teams are urging their patients to be as physically active as possible during cancer treatment.  Exercise has advantages after treatment to help a patient improve or return to former level of function.  There are many benefits from cardiovascular and resistance training exercise.  Specifically for cancer patients, exercise can help for the following reasons:

  • Keep or improve your physical abilities
  • Improve balance, lower risk of falls and broken bones
  • Keep muscles from wasting due to inactivity
  • Improve your self-esteem
  • Lower the risk of being anxious and depressed
  • Lessen nausea
  • Lessen symptoms of fatigue
  • Help you control your weight
  • Improve your quality of life

During Treatment:  A person’s exercise program should be based on what is safe and what works best for them. If you exercised before treatment, you might need to exercise less than usual or at a lower intensity during treatment.  People who were sedentary before cancer treatment may need to start with short, low-intensity activity, such as short slow walks. The goal is to stay as active and fit as possible.

After Treatment: Exercise is important to overall health and quality of life. There is evidence that reaching and staying at a healthy weight, eating right, and being physically active may help reduce the risk of serious chronic diseases.

The American Cancer Activity recommends that cancer survivors take these actions:

  • Take part in regular exercise.
  • Avoid inactivity and return to normal daily activities as soon as possible after diagnosis.
  • Aim to exercise at least 150 minutes per week.
  • Include strength training exercises at least 2 days per week

Some people can safely begin or maintain their own exercise program, but many will have better results with the help of an exercise physiologist or physical therapist.  Be sure to get your doctor’s OK first and be advised on any limitations.  We have certified Cancer Exercise Trainers that can help you find the type of exercise that is right and safe for you.  After a physical assessment is done, we will give you a personalized exercise prescription to begin your exercise program.

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