Physical fitness is one of the best things cancer patients can do for their health. The benefits of regular exercise are well documented. In fact, exercise benefits are many and varied, from improved heart health to better sleep.
Cancer patients typically lose muscle during cancer therapy and extended bed rest, so exercise is important for maintaining muscle health. Physical activity also boosts the immune system to fight infections and illness better. Research has shown that patients who exercise consistently are better able to fight fatigue, nausea, and other treatment side effects. Some studies even suggest that exercise can speed healing and prevent relapse.
Physical fitness should be at a top priority before, during, and after cancer. Unfortunately, exercise often gets lost in a patient’s list of things to do. The tiredness and sick feelings associated with cancer make exercise hard for many patients. For some, like those with mesothelioma cancer and other lung diseases, exercise can seem impossible.
The good news is that exercise is possible, safe and even recommended for most patients. Gone are the days when doctors told cancer patients to limit their physical activities. These days, regular exercise-- even if it means stretching in bed or walking down the hall-- is just what the doctor ordered.
Most cancer patients can do some form of exercise during and after treatment and the benefits far outweigh the tiredness and discomfort that may occur. In fact, exercise actually boosts energy, reduces fatigue, and helps patients feel better. As long as physical movement does not cause a rapid heart rate, breathing problems, or additional pain, it is generally safe to perform.
Of course, patients should first talk to their cancer doctor about incorporating exercise into their weekly routines. Only doctor-approved activities will do. Many patients choose to work with a fitness professional to develop an appropriate fitness regimen. This is helpful for many because cancer experiences vary from one patient to another and many factors are considered in a fitness program. Age, cancer type, stage, treatment, general health and preference all play a role in the process.
For patients cancer, light exercise improves not only patient health but also quality of life. At a time when chaos and uncertainty often rule the day, exercise gives patients a sense of control. It is something positive they can do for their bodies and their health.
The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes of exercise each week. Patients do best when they break this into short segments of activity spread throughout the week. In addition, most fitness programs stress the importance of three exercise components: stretching, strength training and aerobic activity. Together, these elements of exercise provide the best health benefits and richest quality of life for people living with cancer.
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