Personal Fitness and Training
When you’re dealing with the rigors of cancer, often the last thing you want to think about is staying fit. Yet when you’re diagnosed with cancer, maintaining some level of movement each day can make a world of difference in how you feel and your overall outlook. Some regular form of exercise on a daily basis can be as simple as a 10-minute walk around the block, riding a bicycle, or doing some aerobic exercises in your pool.
Components of Exercise
Experts note that there are three components to a sensible exercise program. A regimen that includes all of these is ideal, even just a little of each.
This is a workout that gets the heart rate up and the blood pumping. Common forms of aerobic exercise include jogging or brisk walking, swimming, and bicycling (either outdoors or on a stationary bike).
StretchingStretching serves to keep one’s joints and muscles limber, is important for anyone, especially mesothelioma patients and others who tend to be bedridden for extended periods of time.
Strength trainingStrength Training builds muscle and tones the body, will help the patient maintain their strength even during their disease and during mesothelioma treatment, which often zaps the body of strength.
The Importance of Exercise
A 2009 study by the American College of Sports Medicine stressed how important it is for cancer patients to avoid inactivity. The lead author, Dr. Kathryn Schmitz of the Abramson Cancer Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said “Our hope is that there will be more conversations about the need for formalized exercise programs for patients during and right after treatment—programs that will be the cancer equivalent to cardiac rehab.”
The improvement of quality of life is the foremost benefit of participating in regular exercise, says Schmitz, especially during treatment, which may include mesothelioma radiation or mesothelioma chemotherapy. “We’re finding that patients can do a lot more than we originally thought they could do, even when they’re on chemotherapy or radiation therapy,” notes Dr. Kerry Courneya of the University of Alberta. Courneya has led a number of clinical trials on the subject of exercise for cancer patients during active treatment.
Schmitz and her study partners devised guidelines that are aggressive but realistic, she notes, avoiding any tasks that might be difficult for cancer patients to tackle. Schmitz notes for example, that certain cancer therapies or drugs make a person more prone to fractures, so things like that must be taken into consideration.
In addition, Schmitz stresses that sometimes patients – including those with mesothelioma disease – are just too sick to exercise. At the point where exercise just cannot be tolerated, the patient may need a break or may need to change the regimen to make it easier.
Personal Trainers for Cancer Patients
It’s tough to get motivated to exercise, even when you’re healthy. Being sick makes it even harder to get out of bed and on your feet, even when symptoms of cancer or side effects of treatment are at a minimum. Many patients have found that a personal trainer can help encourage them to stay as fit as possible.
Cancer patients shouldn’t hire just any personal trainer. Mesothelioma victims should look for trainers who are specially educated in how to deal with a body that’s going through cancer. The trainer should know the specifics of asbestos cancer and must understand the patient’s limitations while still being able to encourage them to partake of appropriate forms of physical exercise.
A properly educated trainer should have the tools to deal with the physical and psychological effects of cancer and cancer treatment on patients, should be aware of special precautions when working with cancer patients, and should be able to offer a variety of options to suit the changing needs of a cancer patient as they get better or struggle further with their disease.
Ask your hospital support person if there is a personal trainer on staff that caters to the exercise needs of cancer patients. If not, check with local health clubs to see if there is a trained fitness professional on their staff who is educated in the particulars of working with cancer patients. Don’t be afraid to ask for documentation as to the trainer’s licensing and experience.
National Cancer Institute
American Council on Exercise