Top Reasons To Exercise During Cancer Treatment

Allison Kares, NCPT

PEOPLE OFTEN DON'T THINK OF EXERCISE while they are undergoing cancer treatment. The benefits are numerous whether you are undergoing treatment, recovering from surgery or focusing on survivorship.

Benefits of Exercise During Treatment

Starting or maintaining an exercise program after cancer diagnosis results in patients who are stronger both mentally and physically. Kerry Courneya of the University of Alberta led the research which it published in the Annals of Behavioural Medicine. Courneya says, "Cancer diagnosis and its treatments are often associated "With negative side effects that diminish the quality oflife. Overall, studies have consistently demonstrated that physical exercise following cancer diagnosis has a positive effect on quality of life." The various studies on the effects of exercise for cancer patients mention increased stamina, increased functional capacity, strength, self-esteem, improved treatment tolerance, and satisfaction "With life, and decreased pain. Psychological changes including a decrease in total mood disturbances, decrease in depression, and fewer problems sleeping were noted between the exercise and no-exercise groups. It has also been noted that increased physical activity has been associated "With less fatigue during and after chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Benefits of Exercise During Recovery From Surgery

After cancer surgery, exercise plays an invaluable role in helping one re­turn to the strength and fitness level that was maintained prior to surgery. In many cases, patients can reach new heights in strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular conditioning. TI1ere are certain postural implications that often arise after mastectomy and lymph node dissection that can be compounded by reconstruction and radiation if not addressed. Most situations can be improved upon through a combination of stretching and strengthening. Postural imbalances can happen in normal, everyday life. These can be exaggerated by surgery and radiation in the cancer patient. When left untreated, these imbalances can create a chain reaction that have negative effects on other areas of the body leading to pain and dysfunction. Exercise during treatment also assists "With management of lymphodema, one of the side effects of radiation treatment and surgery.

Benefits of Exercise For Survivorship

There is substantial research that demonstrates that increasing our physi­cal activity, including a structured exercise program, is associated "With lower cancer rates. There is evidence that high levels of physical activity can prevent colon cancer. Cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and uterus have also been linked to exercise-related prevention models.

Exercise can help prevent cancer through:

1) maintenance of a healthy body weight and overall decreased body fat

2) maintenance of low levels of fat around the abdomen

3) maintenancef biological systems that regulate blood sugar

4) improved immune function and

5) reduce free radical scavengers to assist the body in preventing DNA damage.

No matter what stage you're at, working "With a team of medical and fitness professionals to add exercise to your treatment plan can help to improve how you feel on your road to recovery.

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