"Exercise, Me, are you joking?" This is a comment that I have heard many times over by those in treatment who simply cannot imagine another part to their cancer treatment. As a lymphedema therapist at Providence St.Peter Hospital Outpatient Lymphedema clinic I have had the privilege in my 6 years specializing to work closely with numerous cancer patients on their treatment journey.
Exercise is often viewed as a double sided coin; on one side is the desire to work out and the other is the fear of the unknown and how exercise will effect someone going through cancer treatment. In fact, The American Cancer Society advises that individuals going through cancer treatment, with approval from your doctor, benefit from moderate activity 3-5 times a week. Moderate activity is defined as the equivalent to a brisk walk OR performing a task where you can still carry on a conversation.
Exercise has many positive side effects in cancer patients such as:
- Decreasing fatigue, nausea, anemia
- Improving mental clarity
- Promoting a sense of well being
- Reducing stress
- Reduce the deconditioning that can come with decreased activity
If you have found yourself feeling "tight" after surgery or radiation or "drained" from chemotherapy simple stretching can be a wonderful tool to helping you feel "more like you."
Exercise does not have to be a structured program! Just getting up and moving will help and feel good. Simple housework and your daily routine may be enough. Did you know vacuuming or mopping burns ~150 calories an hour? Calculate how much you're already doing with The American Cancer Society's exercise calculator.
Your body will tell you if you’ve done too much or are where you should be. Again, be sure to talk with your doctor and consider keeping an exercise journal. That way you can track your progress and check in at your appointments to make sure you're on the right track for you.