The old model of cancer treatment cautioned patients to avoid exercise and rest as much as possible, but this idea is being turned on its head by modern research. In fact, leading doctors in the field of cancer research are now recommending all patients get the same amount of physical activity recommended to the general public. Though the new guidelines (http://tinyurl.com/899svta) are scaled back to only include the 150-minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, studies and the doctors themselves indicate that more is better, so long as the patient only works to the level of tolerance. These findings are true for common cancers such as breast cancer and more rare cancers such as mesothelioma.(http://tinyurl.com/6odep55)
What is the Level of Tolerance for Physical Activity?
Generally, this refers to avoiding over-exertion. If the exercise is too strenuous for the individual's fitness level, it may actually cause damage to muscles and reverse some of the benefits. Since the patient's fitness level is the most important factor in designing a workout program for maximum benefit, the guidelines further call on cancer clinics to incorporate fitness experts to provide guidance. There is a lag between recommendations and meeting them, so most patients will have to ask for a referral or seek out such fitness experts on their own.
The good news is that patients with a history of exercise, whether this is basic aerobics or strength training, are generally able to continue without a problem. Listening to the body and knowing when the level of tolerance has been reached is something that comes with experience. During treatment, it may be necessary to step down the intensity of workouts.
What Types of Benefits Can Be Expected?
The leading benefit that has garnered the most research is a reduction in fatigue. Even low-intensity exercise was found to reduce fatigue in breast cancer patients(http://tinyurl.com/7smxlom), and reviews show that all cancer-related fatigue can be addressed with physical activity(http://tinyurl.com/84utfv7). Getting started early with a workout program designed to progressively lead to more intense workouts can eliminate the experience of post-therapy fatigue, which can otherwise continue for up to five years after treatment.
A glimpse of the other common symptoms shows just how necessary exercise is during and after treatment. Exercise is known to help stabilize the mood and provide a better self image, which can counter the anxiety and depression commonly experienced. Digestive upsets and loss of appetite are caused by chemotherapy and radiation, and these too can be ameliorated with exercise. Always discuss choices of physical activity with the doctor.
Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April. If you would like to contact her she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.