In addition to the cancer prevention benefits of exercise, it has been found to be beneficial to those already dealing with the disease. In two recent studies reported by MedpageToday.com, participation in at least twelve weeks of exercise was associated with significant improvement in overall health-related quality of life for cancer patients and survivors.
In a study of survivors, the researchers were looking at physical activity that included strength training, resistance training, walking, cycling, yoga, Qigong, or Tai Chi. They found that exercise had a positive impact on both overall health-related quality of life and more specific emotional well-being areas such as body image, anxiety, fatigue and self-esteem.
In the other study, which included only current patients, the results were similar to those seen in the survivor study, with improved overall health-related quality of life being reported at twelve weeks. According to the researchers quoted in the MedpageToday.com article, effects of exercise were more pronounced with moderate or vigorous intensity workouts than with mild exercise programs.
The American Cancer Society provides tips on exercising while undergoing cancer treatment, and we're sharing a few here. Visit their site for more information.
First, you should always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. This is especially important if your treatments can affect your lungs (such as the drug bleomycin or radiation to the chest), your heart (such as the drugs doxorubicin or epirubicin), or if you are at risk for lung or heart disease.
- Your cancer care team will check your blood counts during your treatment. Ask them about your counts and if it's OK for you to exercise. Do not exercise if you a low red blood cell count (anemia).
- If you have low white blood cell counts or if you take medicines that make you less able to fight infection, stay away from public gyms and other public places until your counts are at safe levels.
- If you are dealing with fatigue brought on by treatment and don't feel up to exercising you can try to do 10 minutes of stretching exercises each day instead.
- Do not use heavy weights or do exercise that puts too much stress on your bones if you have osteoporosis, cancer that has spread to the bone, arthritis, nerve damage, poor vision, poor balance, or weakness. You may be more likely to injure yourself or break a bone.
- If you have numbness in your feet or problems with balance, you are at higher risk for falls. You might do better with a stationary reclining bicycle, for example, than a treadmill.
- Watch for swollen ankles, unexplained weight gain, or shortness of breath while at rest or with a small amount of exertion. Let your doctor know if you have any of these problems.
- To avoid irritation, don't expose skin that has had radiation to the chlorine in swimming pools.
- Do not exercise above a moderate level of exertion without talking with your doctor. Remember, moderate exertion is about as much effort as a brisk walk.
- If you still have a catheter (tube that goes into your body), avoid water and other exposures that may cause infections. Also, avoid resistance training that uses muscles in the area of the catheter to avoid dislodging it. Talk with your cancer team about what is safe for you.