Previously, you may have heard that doctors advise patients with chronic illnesses such as cancer to take plenty of rest. This is actually the correct plan of treatment for patients who may suffer from body pain, shortness of breath, or heart rate-related conditions, since reduced movements and limited physical activities will help restore vitality during the course of the treatment. However, too much downtime can also lead to loss of body functions, atrophy, chronic fatigue due to muscle fitness, and reduced range of motion.
Meanwhile, recent studies show that for cancer treatment, physical activities during cancer treatment are actually safe. In fact, moving your body even during treatment can improve certain areas of quality of life and physical health. Regular exercise and an active lifestyle post-treatment also help in coping with life after cancer.
In addition, there are things to think about before starting a physical fitness regimen during and after cancer treatments:
- Exercises should be done in short periods of time, with frequent rest breaks. Your overall stamina may be on its low levels during and after treatment. Although the exercises may seem longer because of the breaks, you will still get the benefit of the entire exercise.
- Do the activities only when able. Although a regular routine is best, do not try to push yourself too hard, especially during treatment. Exercising even when you are at the peak of your fatigue may do more harm than good.
- Start slowly, with gradual build up. If you get fit in a gym, you don’t need to keep up with others around you. Work at your own pace; you will still arrive at your fitness goals.
- Mix physical activities with regular exercise. Physical fitness during and after cancer treatment should not be limited to strenuous exercises, or even done in gyms or with equipment. There are plenty of activities you can do to keep fit. For example, even simple brisk walking for 20-30 minutes daily is a great help in trying to stay fit. There are also fun yet challenging activities to keep you occupied and fit at the same time, like biking in the parks and mountains, or swimming every weekend.
- Setting up goals really helps. Having a goal helps you stick to your program. In addition, with a goal in mind, you are more likely to measure your progress, which also helps in monitoring your overall physical fitness.
Bear in mind though, that there are special considerations to think of before undergoing a fitness regimen before, during, and after treatment for cancer.
For starters, you should solicit for an appropriate exercise and activity program, since each program is unique to the conditions of the patient. A good exercise plan optimizes physical activities without being too tiring. In addition, the activities and exercises included in the plan should be things that you like doing, since it will also help take your mind off the treatment and cancer itself, and also helps in maintaining not just your physical, but emotional well-being.
During treatment, healthcare providers may offer some suggestions on what to include in your physical activity plan; do your best to check them out. These professionals know what they are talking about, since they have already taken into account factors in your condition like the type and stage of cancer you have; stamina, strength, and fitness level during the course of treatment; and how you are being treated. They will help figure out the best and appropriate exercise and activities for you.
Checking in with a professional is important, since there are special considerations for exercises during treatment that depends on the medical history of the patient. For example, if you are undergoing treatment for bone-related cancer, too much exercise may put you at risk of fracture. Meanwhile, patients who have low immunity during the course of the treatment should avoid crowds like in gyms or parks.
Nutrition and exercise is also specific to certain types of cancer. In a report published by the American Cancer Society, specific guidelines were set for the more common types of cancer. For example, breast cancer patients should have moderate upper body workout, and try to maintain a healthy weight even when health-related problems are not present. Meanwhile, those with lung cancer should have a multivitamin/mineral supplement together with well-balanced diet, and physical activities to strengthen stamina also works wonders.
Physical fitness should not stop after the battle has been won. In fact, keeping fit with an active lifestyle after treatment is a must, since moving your body more after treatment is known to reduce risk of cancer coming back. Staying at a healthy weight, living an active and adjusted lifestyle, and being physically active help reduce the danger of cancer recurrence, or even complications and other serious chronic diseases.
For cancer survivors, it is recommended that they take part in regular physical activities. Exercises should also be designed to gradually increase in intensity. A good exercise plan focuses on strenuous activities for about 150 minutes per week, with at least two days’ worth of strength training exercises.
Although you may have already conquered the Big C, a specialized exercise plan is still a must even after treatment, since some patients have developed special conditions after being treated. For example, those who have been overweight or obese after cancer treatment should focus on weight-loss activities, and prefer a diet that excludes high-calorie food and drinks.
Even after getting the doctor’s okay, you should still regularly let your healthcare providers see your fitness plan post treatment, particularly during the first months after. Some signs that you may need to adjust your exercise regimen include low red blood cell count; low white blood cell count; abnormal levels of mineral in the body; experiencing nausea and vomiting during physical activities; and excessive fatigue after exercise sessions.