BENEFITS OF KEEPING ACTIVE
Physical activity may be an important part of your recovery after cancer treatment.
During the treatment, it can help to take short walks, and if this is not possible, at least spend less time sitting down. Physical activity can have many benefits and can help to:
- make you feel less tired and reduce some side effects of the treatment
- reduce anxiety and depression
- improve your mood and add to your quality of life
- strengthen your muscles, joints, and bones
- take care of your heart and reduce the risk of other health problems.
Exercising and keeping a healthy weight can reduce the risk of certain cancers coming back.
If you aren't used to exercising or haven't exercised for some time, you may be worried about getting going. Physical activity does not mean exercising intensely. To start off, it can be as simple as going walking or doing things around the home.
As you build up strength, you can choose an activity you enjoy. Walking, dancing, yoga, running, and riding a bike are just some of the many activities that will make you fit and healthy. You will find you have more energy and feel better.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND ADVANCED CANCER
If you are living with advanced cancer, physical activity can be beneficial to you. It can help certain symptoms improve, such as tiredness, lack of appetite, and constipation. It also lowers stress levels and helps you sleep better.
Start slowly, increasing the amount of exercise you get little by little. Start trying to reduce the time you spend seated or lying down. Just moving about the house and doing simple, day-to-day things will help.
You may be able to manage taking short walks or doing some light stretching. Try to get family members or friends to join in.
Resistance exercises can help strengthen muscles and bones. This newly acquired strength helps with getting into and out of the bathtub, going up and down stairs, and with shopping. It also helps reduce the risk of accidental falls. There are some chair-based exercises that can help you improve your muscle tone and flexibility.
You may have to avoid certain types of physical activity if, for example, your cancer is located in your bones. Ask your doctor for advice on whether exercise is good for you.
DIFFERENT WAYS OF STAYING ACTIVE
The activities you engage in will depend on different factors. Make sure you keep a level of activity that is appropriate for you.
Choose activities that you enjoy and, if possible, mix your exercises up:
- Aerobic exercise-walking, dancing, running, bike riding, or swimming-is good for your heart.
- Resistance exercises-lifting light weights-help make your muscles strong.
- Flexibility exercises-stretching, yoga, Tai Chi-improve flexibility.
- Balance exercises-yoga, Tai Chi, pilates-help with balance and strength.
AVOIDING EXERCISE INJURIES
It is important to stay physically active. But you may have to choose the exercises you do carefully. This decision will depend on the type of cancer you have, your treatment, its side effects, or any other medical condition you may have. Your doctor or specialist nurse can give you more advice.
Recent surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy can affect the type of activity that is safe for you. For example, chemotherapy increases the risk of infection. If you have low white blood cells, your doctor may recommend avoiding swimming pools or gyms. If you have effects caused by long-term treatment such as lymphedema, you will also need advice on what you can do physically.
Cancer or cancer treatment, such as hormone therapy, can affect the bones. If you have problems in your bones, you will need to avoid activities that put you at risk of falling.
If you have another medical condition, such as heart or lung problems, ask you doctor for advice.
ADVICE WHEN STARTING OUT
If you are starting to become more active after cancer treatment, you will have to think about what amount of activity is appropriate for you. This depends on different things, such as any side effects or symptoms you may have and the shape you are in before the treatment.
It is important to set realistic goals and listen to your body. You should start with light activities. You will be able to increase the intensity as you get stronger and feel you are in better shape.
Some tips can help you when starting out. They can also help you stay motivated:
- Join an exercise group or association.
- Walk or ride your bike to the store.
- Keep a log of the exercise you do.
- Set reachable goals for yourself.
- Tell your friends about the activities you are doing so they can join you.