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Exercise does a body good

Exercise
For people already diagnosed with cancer, the benefits of exercise are abundant. Daily workouts can help strengthen your body for the fight ahead, and brighten your mood and outlook on life. They can also improve your balance and self-worth, alleviate stress and symptoms of fatigue, and help with weight control.

With so much going on in life, who has time for exercise? The short answer is, you do. There’s good news on the too-busy-for-fitness front, and this month—American Heart Month—is just the time to share it: You really don’t need a lot of time to squeeze a healthy exercise routine into a hectic schedule.

Even a five-minute run can cut your risk for heart disease, whether you putter along or sprint it out. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that of the 55,000 adults studied for 15 years, those who ran for just five to 10 minutes a day lived an average of three years longer than those who didn’t run at all. They were also 30 percent more likely to beat diseases of all kinds.

Not into running? Don’t fret. Another study found that walking at a brisk pace is just as effective in lowering your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes—the leading causes of heart disease and strokes. Years of research suggests that just about any amount of exercise is better than none for a healthy heart. Regular, even modest exercise also can go a long way toward preventing chronic disease like cancer.

For anyone already diagnosed with cancer, the benefits are abundant. Daily workouts can help strengthen your body for the fight ahead, and brighten your mood and outlook on life. They can also improve your balance and self-worth, alleviate stress and symptoms of fatigue, and help with weight control.

Cancer patients, though, should be realistic about what to expect of their bodies, especially during treatment. The toll of the disease, and the treatment to fight it, will likely mean you won’t have the same energy level you used to. If you exercised before your diagnosis, you may not be able to keep the  same pace, at least for the time being. And that’s okay. If you’ve never exercised before, you’ll need to build up gradually. The key is to get moving.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that cancer patients set a goal of at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. But always check with your doctor to make sure your routine is tailored for your specific cancer type and treatment plan.

Consider these tips to find a way to shoehorn exercise into a busy life:

Do what you love: Whether it’s walking, swimming, going to the gym or hitting a nature trail, find something that makes you happy. You’ll be more likely to stick to it.

Find a buddy: Having company while you sweat may be all the motivation you need.

Set a goal: Make a plan from the outset, and commit to sticking to it. Reaching specific benchmarks will add to your sense of self-esteem and confidence.

Track your progress: Wearable gadgets make it easier to track health data, from steps taken to calories burned. And fans say the devices add to the fun of fitness.

Learn about other ways you can strengthen your body during your cancer journey.