exercise after cancer

How to exercise right after cancer

Exercise can help you to recover from cancer, but it can also be the last thing you feel like doing after treatment. There’s a lot of factors you need to consider, including treatment side effects, reduced physical capacity and surgery related complications. So, how can you exercise right after cancer? 

In the past, people being treated for a chronic illness (an illness a person may live with for a long time, like cancer or diabetes) were often told by their doctor to rest and reduce their physical activity.

But newer research has shown that exercise is not only safe both during and post-cancer treatment, but it can improve how well you function and your quality of life.

Recovering from cancer is tough

Cancer survivorship brings physiological and psychological side effects such as muscular atrophy, decreased aerobic capacity, fatigue, depression, and decreased strength, thus reducing overall quality of life. The majority of these side effects are amenable through regular exercise.

Physical activity can be an effective tool in the rehabilitation of cancer survivors. An exercise program can help reduce treatment side effects such as fatigue, neuropathy, weakness, lymphedema and depression.

And movement remains valuable post-treatment too. Research shows that exercise helps to manage long-term effects of treatment, promotes function, improves overall health and increases survival rates.

Exercise Right after cancer treatment

Following cancer treatment, you might feel fatigued, mentally drained and may have lost a lot of your strength. So, how do you get started?

Here are seven tips to help you get started in an exercise program post cancer treatment…

1. Talk to your doctor about treatment side effects

While you’ve most likely talked about potential side effects before and during treatment, it’s important to have the conversation after treatment, too. Knowing this information can help shape your exercise plan to your unique needs. For example, some medications may make your joints or muscles sore.

2. Ask about lymphedema

If you’ve had surgery, ask your doctors which lymph nodes were affected and if you’re at risk for lymphedema. If you’re at risk, it’s a great idea to meet with a lymphedema therapist.

exercise physiology class

3. Keep your exercise routine flexible

It’s important to listen to your body. Make sure you adjust your exercise routine as you work through the side effects post treatment.

4. Get social

Try to find a cancer exercise class where you can be active and social. Research has shown that exercising in groups with other individuals who have completed active treatment can provide physiological and psychosocial benefits.

5. Start small

Even if it’s adding 5-10mins of walking to your day. Gradually start to increase your exercise levels to regain some strength and find a little routine into it daily life.

6. Find support

Look into post cancer survivorship support groups. They often have gentle group exercise programs to get you started on your journey of getting back to where you once were.

7. Speak to an Exercise Physiologist

They are allied health professionals specially trained to prescribe exercise to those living with chronic conditions. An exercise physiologist will tailor an exercise program suited to your individual goals post treatment and work with a lymphedema therapist (if need to be) to help you to exercise right.

To find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you, click here.

Written by Kitty Chao, Accredited Exercise Physiologist. 

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