Gaining Benefits, Preventing Injuries- Exercise During Cancer Treatment

A guest post by David Haas

The stress of a cancer diagnosis and the symptoms of both cancer and treatment can make personal fitness an afterthought or worse. Though this was accepted and even encouraged by doctors in the past, it is now known that physical fitness has an important role to play in cancer treatment. A lack of physical activity can be even worse for a cancer patient than for an otherwise healthy person, causing atrophy in the muscles, decreasing range of motion, and a worse prognosis.

Engaging in a regular exercise program that is suited to the individual’s fitness level and preferences has the opposite effects. It increases the percentage of lean muscle, strengthens the musculoskeletal system, and provides a stronger prognosis. The effects of exercise have been studied extensively for several common forms of cancer, and the leading research organizations have unanimously decided that the risk of injury during exercise, even for patients with lung cancer or mesothelioma, should be managed with the services of a fitness expert, in order to realize the life-changing benefits.

What Are the Specific Benefits?
Though there is still much research that must be done to quantify the benefits of exercise both during treatment and survival stage of cancer, several benefits have been clearly enumerated by the American Cancer Society. Any of these contribute directly to quality of life, such as a decrease in common symptoms and added protection against injury that comes with a stronger body and faster reflexes. Specifically, benefits include:

* Reduced symptoms of fatigue
* Greater independence
* Stronger circulatory system, reduced risk of clotting and reduced risk of heart disease
* Protection against abrupt weight changes
* Better digestive function, increase in appetite, and reduction in nausea
* Higher self-esteem and lower risk of developing emotional disorders
* Increased adaptability to both physical and emotional stress

These general benefits can be gained by any cancer patient engaged in a regular fitness program. The program itself can vary considerably, based on the patient’s health status and type of treatment, and still provide benefits. In addition, there are special forms of exercise available to speed recovery from cancer surgeries, as well as to provide benefits for patients undergoing palliative care.

Safety Precautions
Preventing exercise injuries is always important, but it is even more so when undergoing cancer treatment. Those using an outpatient treatment program can safely perform a range of exercises, though it can be advantageous to contract a personal trainer. Patients with little experience in exercise will gain more benefit through an expert assessment and routine designed to their needs. Discussing any exercise routine with the doctor will give insight as to whether help may be necessary. Though it requires some work, the benefits of exercise are too important to ignore.

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