The following is a guest post from Kate Flaherty. Thank you Kate!!!
Health care practitioners and researchers have always recommended exercise for healthy people. Until recently, cancer patients were advised to avoid exercise. Many clinicians encouraged their patients to conserve their energy. Others wanted to protect them from potential injuries.
Research now suggests that exercise improves the physical and psychological well-being of patients during their cancer treatment. The benefits of exercise for cancer patients undergoing treatment are an increase in strength, endurance, energy levels, bone density, muscle mass and self-esteem. Exercise also prevents unwanted weight changes and reduces the severity of treatment-related side effects. Many local hospitals and cancer centers now offer exercise programs for their cancer patients.
The most significant benefit of exercise is that it increases a patient’s chance of survival. Exercise reduces the risk of cancer recurrence, slows cancer progression and the risk of other life-threatening diseases, such as a second primary cancer. It can also help the patient tolerate the barrage of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy reduces a patient’s white blood cell (WBC) count. When your WBC count is too low, the treatment dose is reduced or delayed to allow it to return to normal. Exercise increases your WBC count and can help patients tolerate their treatment regimens. Regular exercise promotes good circulation, thereby allowing immune system cells and substances to circulate throughout the body and to perform their job more efficiently.
Before you begin an exercise program, you should speak with your doctor. Cancers, and the therapies used to treat them, can have a significant impact on your body. Chemotherapy and hormone therapy can make bones more brittle. Other cancer therapies may weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections. Your health care provider can help you customize your exercise program.
Cancer patients should participate in various forms of exercise. Flexibility, weight resistance and aerobics should be included in a weekly workout. Flexibility exercises will enhance mobility while aerobic activities will build cardiovascular strength. Weight resistance rebuilds muscle mass that is often lost during cancer treatments. Patients should pace themselves and take a day off between workouts.
Cancer patients should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. Clinicians should tailor exercise recommendations to individual patients based upon the patient’s fitness level, diagnosis and factors about their disease that might influence exercise safety. Patients with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, should discuss the benefits of exercise with their clinicians. Exercise can help you tolerate your therapy and improve your mesothelioma prognosis.