Cancer Treatment Centers of America

The benefits of exercise for cancer patients

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Being active has many health benefits, but in the past, doctors advised people with a chronic illness such as cancer to reduce unnecessary physical activity. Recent studies show that engaging in physical activity is one of the most important lifestyle choices cancer patients can make for their well-being.

Incorporating exercise into your daily routine may help you deal with the toll treatment can take on your body. It is also beneficial for your mood and outlook on recovery. Research shows a link between physical activity and improved quality of life for current cancer patients, as well as those who have completed treatment.

Regular exercise can help in the following ways:

  • Improve balance
  • Lower the risk of heart disease
  • Lessen the likelihood of developing osteoporosis
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Improve blood flow, thus lowering the risk of blood clots
  • Lessen symptoms of fatigue
  • Help with weight control
  • Lessen nausea
  • Lower the risk of heart disease
  • Alleviate stress and anxiety

If you exercised before a cancer diagnosis, you may not be able to engage in your previous level of activity during treatment. You can exercise at a lower intensity level, though, which won’t put too much stress on your body. For those who previously led a sedentary lifestyle, it’s a good opportunity to make a positive, proactive decision to incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine.

For cancer patients and survivors, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following guidelines:

  • Take part in regular physical activity
  • Avoid inactivity and return to normal daily activities as soon as possible
  • Aim to exercise at least 150 minutes per week
  • Make sure exercise recommendations are tailored to your individual diagnosis
  • Pay close attention to your body’s response to certain activities to avoid injury
  • Include strength training exercises at least two days per week, if recommended by a doctor

Since effective physical activity works your heart, remember to monitor your heart rate and your breathing. If you experience shortness of breath or become very tired, take a rest and resume exercising when you are able.

The key to exercise during and after cancer treatment is finding the right activity at the right level of intensity. It is important to speak with your doctors to design an appropriate program that meets your individual needs.

Our Oncology Rehabilitation Department offers physical and occupational therapy as part of our patients’ overall cancer treatment, and will help design an exercise program for after treatment.