20 May Top 4 Tips for Braving Cancer With Exercise
The enormous benefits of exercise on our health are well known and there is no exception to this for women and men braving a diagnosis of cancer.
Strong evidence supports that regular exercise during and following treatment for cancer has a multitude of benefits including boosting physical and emotional health and wellbeing, improving overall quality of life and prevention of chronic diseases including diabetes and heart disease. Exercise can also have a positive influence on mood, energy, confidence and weight; as well as helping to manage some of the side effects of treatment which can include lymphoedema, pain and fatigue.
Your local Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) will be your best resource for guidance and expertise regarding safe exercise if you are currently undergoing or have undergone treatment for cancer. Your AEP will carry out all of the necessary screenings and tests and gather a comprehensive history to ensure that the exercises they prescribe for you are safe and suitable.
Here are a few helpful tips and safety considerations for commencing or re-commencing an exercise program if you are during or post treatment:
Get the all clear
- This must be your first step:As long as your treating practitioner has cleared you for exercise, you are able to start at any time (this includes during treatment) and the sooner the better. It is never too late to reap the benefits of movement and exercise
Are you struggling with motivation? (Getting started can be half the battle!)
- Identify activities that you enjoy: Think of exercise as an enjoyable part of your day as opposed to a chore
- Set short and long term goals: Write these down, stick them in a prominent location and “treat” yourself when you achieve a goal
- Get your friends and family on board with exercise: This can do wonders for your motivation and compliance
- Infection control: If currently undergoing chemotherapy or have a reduced white blood cell count, it is best to avoid large groups or gyms which may increase your risk of infection
- Avoiding high impact exercises which may increase your risk of falls: This is important if you have reduced bone density (Osteopenia or Osteoporosis). Lowered bone density can be a common side effect of treatment.
- Pacing and fatigue management: Start slow and build your exercise regime gradually. Try breaking activity into smaller bouts instead of all at once. Avoid too much too soon as this can lead to “one step forward, two step’s backwards”
Where do I start? How often? How hard? What to do!
- Types of exercise: Walking and supervised resistance (strength) based exercises are a great place to start. For those with reduced bone density, weight bearing and resistance exercises are particularly beneficial as they can help to improve bone density
- Frequency (how often): The recommendation for those with breast cancer is the same as the general population; which is 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week. Listen to your body and if need be, slowly build up to this by trying 2 x 15 minute bouts, or 3 x 10 minute bouts throughout the day
- Intensity (how hard): Aim for a low to moderate intensity. Putting this into perspective, a moderate intensity is that of a “brisk” walk where you can still talk and maintain a conversation, but not be able to sing
Exercise can be a great way to actively take control of your health again, improve your physical and emotional well being and to start escaping the “cancer bubble.”