Why Exercise Is So Important For Cancer Patients?

Why Exercise Is So Important For Cancer Patients?

People diagnosed with colon cancer, mesothelioma or other types of cancer have traditionally been advised by their doctor to avoid exercising while being treated for the disease. However, recent studies have shown that cancer patients who exercise during cancer treatments are more likely to beat the disease than their sedentary counterparts. Doctors are now advising their cancer patients to get 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise each week, if possible. Those that are up to it should also include strength training and resistance exercises. 

Those who exercised before being diagnosed with cancer have a much better chance of beating the disease because their bodies are simply in better shape for the long, hard battle. A well-conditioned body tolerates radiation and chemotherapy better and treatments are less likely to be cut short because of fatigue and illness. However, it is never too late to begin an exercise program. While it may be difficult for cancer patients to begin exercising, it can add a positive spin to cancer treatments and make them feel more in control of their bodies.

Cancer patients who perform regular cardiovascular exercise such as biking, swimming or walking are less likely to suffer from debilitating fatigue during treatment. This is because exercise promotes red cell production, a major factor in fatigue during radiation and chemotherapy. When red blood cells are low, fatigue sets in and often requires medical attention. Chemotherapy can also cause cancer patients to lose bone density and muscle mass. Regular exercise such as strength training can reduce the loss of lean muscle tissue and weight bearing exercise such as running or race walking preserve bone density. Higher levels of lean muscle mass will help cancer patients maintain a normal body weight during treatment instead of wasting away. Improved bone density can help ward off fractures from bones that become brittle from radiation or chemotherapy.

People who are undergoing treatment for cancer should ask their doctor which types of exercise is best for them. Even making a few small changes to increase activity level is beneficial for cancer patients. Taking a walk after dinner, joining a yoga class or working in the garden will benefit cancer patients. The key to getting the most out of an exercise program is enjoying it and having fun. Many people find joining a gym provides positive social interaction that lifts their spirits. Wearing a pedometer around the house can also encourage taking more steps during the day.

David Haas
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

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