Physical activity is known to decrease the risk for certain cancers and other serious illnesses. What's more, recent studies suggest that regular exercise can also improve overall health and quality of life for those who have already been diagnosed with the disease: this includes people who have just been diagnosed, those currently in treatment and even those in remission.
Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients
1. Increased Energy Levels
Cancer, and especially chemotherapy and other treatment methods, can have a significant effect on energy levels. Many patients experience fatigue and exhaustion of both the body and mind. Exercise can boost energy by getting the heart pumping and the blood flowing, which can improve energy levels throughout the day and lead to better quality of sleep at night.
2. Improved Appetite
Malnutrition and dehydration are common concerns among cancer patients. Treatments like chemotherapy, radiation and pain medication can often cause reduced appetite, which can quickly lead to malnutrition and dehydration. Without the proper nutrients and hydration, the body is unable to fight off illness. Due to this, symptoms of cancer and side effects of treatment can become worse. Regular exercise can significantly improve appetite, which greatly reduces the risks of malnutrition.
3. Improved Body Function
When it comes to physical fitness, cancer patients receive the same benefits as everyone else. However, for people with cancer, the benefit of improved overall body function is even more significant. Due to chemotherapy and pain management methods, nearly all cancer patients experience decreased body function. This often includes bowel and urinary disturbances, decreased mobility and general aches and pains. Regular workouts can help keep the body in better working condition by regulating blood pressure, relieving pain and improving muscle, bone and joint function. These benefits will improve the chances of remission as well as decrease the risk of other illnesses.
4. Decreased Risk of Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are common among cancer patients. Exercise can help relieve the symptoms of these conditions by promoting the release of endorphins in the brain. These chemicals boost mood and provide a calming effect on both the body and mind. Exercise also improves symptoms of depression by increasing self-confidence and allowing patients to take control and play an active role in their own treatment and recovery.
Recommended Exercise Options
Although most cancer patients can benefit from exercise in some way, not all workouts are recommended for everyone. For example, for those who have received a mesothelioma diagnosis, difficulty breathing can make intense workouts challenging and even dangerous. For this reason, low-impact workouts like the following are recommended:
- Weight training
These workouts can provide many significant health benefits when performed on a regular basis. Thirty minutes, three or four times a week is more than enough to increase energy, boost mood and self-confidence, improve overall health and lend to better quality of life.
Before beginning any exercise routine, even if for those who were physically active prior to a cancer diagnosis, it's important to speak with a doctor. An oncologist or other trained medical professional can offer tips and advice, as well as recommend workouts that will work best on an individual level.