Bed Rest or Exercise? How Exercising Can Help Fight Cancer

exerciseRest and recovery are almost always treated synonymously. Many cancer patients choose to spend their days in bed in the hope of fast recovery. The rationale is the more rest cancer patients get, the more energy they will preserve. Hence, they will have more strength for their next rounds of treatment.

Generally, this presumption is not far from the truth. Indeed, proper rest is necessary to let the body heal and recover. However, this doesn’t mean that cancer patients must spend their full days without moving. Recent developments in studies of cancer treatments suggest that aside from sleep and relaxation, leaving a little room for physical activity is also necessary for cancer care. 

The term “exercise oncology” pretty much summarizes this idea. Read on to learn more about this unique branch of therapy.  

What is exercise oncology?

Exercise oncology is a type of therapy that uses physical fitness to help combat cancer. Specifically, in this field, physiologists and oncologists work together to bring exercise recommendations that are appropriate for cancer prevention and control.

The goal is to strengthen the body and boost its immune system. Generally, common cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, work to kill all cells – including the healthy ones. As a result, patients who undergo such treatments often find themselves feeling weak and upset.

Exercise oncology works to help patients overcome these side effects and, hopefully, survive cancer.

How does exercise oncology work?

The key to a successful exercise oncology program is close coordination and planning with the doctors. The process usually starts with scheduling a consultation with an exercise oncology specialist. The patient will undergo a series of fitness exams to have a better picture of their health and physical activity. The specialist will then create a treatment program based on the patient’s diagnosis, goals, and physical fitness needs.

Benefits of exercise oncology

Studies discover the benefits of physical fitness during and after cancer treatments. Here are some of them:

Helps lessen cancer treatment side effects

Studies show that exercising during cancer helps the patient experience fewer side effects from their treatment, such as fatigue and nausea.

Improves mood

About 15% to 20% of cancer patients become depressed. Cancer patients tend to feel anxious, stressed, and helpless because of the disease and its effects. Physical activity can help cancer patients boost their mood. Exercising releases chemicals in the brain called endorphins, responsible for that euphoric feeling after a quick run or squats.

Prevents muscle loss

Cancer can also cause a progressive loss of muscles, fat, and body weight. A planned and continuous physical activity will help prevent this.

Reduce chances of weight gain, and obesity

One of the leading causes of cancer is obesity following a sedentary lifestyle. Regular physical activity will help flush out calories and toxins that cause cancer.

Eases pain

The endorphins released in your body after a workout doesn’t just leave you feeling up and high. The same chemicals primarily function to reduce your perception of pain.

Boosts energy and strength

Exercising improves metabolism and flexibility, vital for producing energy.

Improves survival from certain cancer cases

Studies show that the benefits one gets from exercising reduce their risks of mortality from cancer by  40% and 50%. These numbers are particular to breast, prostate, and colon cancer.

Reduces hormone levels

Hormonal imbalances can cause cells to grow and divide abnormally, resulting in cancer. These hormones are estrogen and insulin. Leading an active lifestyle can help reduce insulin and estrogen levels, thereby regulating your hormone levels.

Types of exercises

Here are some of the types of activities that one can expect from exercise oncology:

Breathing Exercises

Doing breathing exercises will help patients ease their shortness of breath and trouble breathing. It moves the air in and out of one’s lungs, building strength and stamina. Breathing exercises also help provide oxygen to the brain, which helps with mood.


Cancer treatments such as radiation therapy can result in the patient’s muscles becoming stiff and their range in motion compromised. Stretching will help restore flexibility. It will also improve oxygen and blood flow to the muscles, inciting the body to repair itself.

Balancing exercises

Several cancer treatments can cause a patient’s bones to become more fragile, making them more susceptible to experiencing fractures. Balancing exercise will help patients improve their movement, which will help them prevent injuries from falling or slipping.

Strength training

Some cancer treatments can also cause a patient’s muscles to become weaker. It also makes them feel more tired. Strength training helps in adding muscle mass, which will help with endurance. Adding up muscles will help with the patient’s fatigue.

Aerobic exercises

These exercises help strengthen the heart and lungs and improve heart rate.

Tips for exercising while on cancer treatment

Here is some information for cancer patients considering undergoing an exercise program:

Progress slowly

Do not strain yourself by pushing yourself too hard. Start slow. If you have not had much physical activity before, start exercising about two to three times per week. You can do only 10 to 20 minutes per session. Start with low-intensity activities.

Talk to your specialist about the terms

For a successful exercise routine, talk to your doctor about the proper and safe routines for your condition. An expert oncologist can walk you through the right type, frequency, intensity, and length of exercise that match your current state.

Exercise when you can

Missing days of exercise is not a big deal—do not feel guilty. Exercise when you have the strength and energy. Rest and regain energy so you can start again.

Add variety

Make your exercise routines more fun and exciting by changing your activities. Mix up low-intensity exercises and high-intensity routines. You can increase the time on the former and keep it short on the latter.

Schedule a consultation for a holistic alternative

Keeping a healthy and active lifestyle is necessary for fighting cancer. It can be difficult if your treatment can make you weak and malnourished. If you want a more radical and holistic alternative to treating cancer, check out the program that New Hope Unlimited offers. They focus on keeping the patient healthy by boosting their immune system and flushing the cancer toxins out of the body with their anti-tumor protocols. Explore your options and know more about this non-invasive therapy!


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