There was a time when Doctors would advise as much rest as possible during and following cancer treatment. However, this is no longer the case as too much rest can lead to a loss of muscle strength and increased lethargy. When you’re living with or after cancer, exercise can really help you to make a positive change to your life. Whether it be day-to-day activity or a structured programme with a specialist personal trainer, any increase in physical activity will be beneficial to cancer patients.
The Benefits of Exercise
Reduce anxiety and stress
Increase bone density (often depleted as a consequence of hormonal therapies)
Increase muscular strength (steroids can deplete muscle mass)
Improve heart health
Maintain a healthy weight
Increase appetite (some treatments can cause a loss of appetite)
Relieve pain (improving muscle strength and flexibility reduces joint pain)
Studies conducted in the University of Hong Kong, the University of California, San Francisco and Harvard School of Public Health, plus those published in the British Medical Journal and Journal of Clinical Oncology have shown that physical activity can also reduce the risk of some cancers progressing or returning. This research is relatively new but indicates that becoming more active has a positive effect. It may also reduce the likelihood of developing a new primary cancer. This is especially true in the case of weight management, where research has shown that being obese increases the risk of breast, womb and bowel cancer.
How cancer treatments can affect the type and intensity of exercise that is recommended
Surgery – Your Doctor will be able to advise you about the level of activity you should undertake after surgery, and of course with your permission, as personal trainers we would liaise directly with your GP or surgeon on a strictly confidential basis, but it’s important to get active as soon as possible to prevent a reduction in muscular strength. Some form of resistance training is highly beneficial.
Chemotherapy – Because chemotherapy reduces the number of cells in your blood it increases your risk of bruising, bleeding, developing anaemia and lowers your immunity, making you more prone to infection. This will affect the intensity at which you can exercise. It is therefore important to have guidance from your Doctor as to the levels your blood cells are at and to advise your trainer of the results of these tests so that they can prescribe the correct level and type of exercise at each stage of your recovery.
Hormonal therapies – These can increase your risk of osteoporosis and so low impact weight bearing activities are vital in building the strength in your bones. It’s also important to incorporate balance and co-ordination training into your programme to reduce the risk of falling.
There are various other factors we will take into account when prescribing an exercise programme for cancer patients, such as medication, peripheral neuropathy, treatment side-effects, other existing conditions, level of fitness prior to diagnosis and of course your lifestyle.
Physical exercise will improve your quality of life, increase life expectancy and reduce the risk of developing other health problems….and it’s fun! For more information contact us to get in touch with our trainers who are qualified in exercise referral and will be happy to chat with you about setting up a fitness programme.
There are so many inspirational stories of people who have overcome the disease by using exercise as part of their recovery and treatment, and who go on to becoming fitter and healthier than ever. Who knows what you could achieve?