Cancer treatment and fatigue go hand-in-hand. It would be a challenging task to find a cancer patient who wasn’t exhausted from the treatment and stress of the disease. Despite the sheer exhaustion cancer patients face, it is just as important for them to partake in thirty minutes of exercise – if not even more so. Studies have shown that exercise may reduce the risk of reoccurrence in cancer patients. Additionally, regular exercise may help elevate mood, improve sleep quality, reduce anxiety, and boost energy.
Like many activities, how one exercises as a cancer patient is different than how they may typically exercise. Regardless of their fitness level, patients should get approval from their care team before commencing exercise routines. Once they are able to begin, it is important to start with simple exercises before working up to more rigorous routines. For those ready to get physical, here are 10 tips on how to get started:
1. Functional training
Functional training means practicing movements that are required in everyday life, such as climbing a flight of stairs. This is a great place to start as these are movements the patient would naturally do every day.
2. Find a buddy
The best way to get physical is to have someone to hold you accountable. Not only does having a buddy make it less likely one will skip a workout, but it also makes it more fun.
3. Resistance exercises
Resistance exercises can be done with or without equipment. A common start to resistance training is to complete 5 to 10 sit-to-stands from a chair several times per day. Another way is to grab 1-pound soup cans or hand weights and complete 10 repetitions of arm curls and shoulder presses each day.
4. Core training
Core training makes every movement easier. It is the control center for muscles. Flexing the abdomen muscles and holding is an easy place to start. If advancing to other core exercises such as sit-ups, it is important to ensure that they are done correctly to avoid neck injury.
5. Get moving
Aerobics can be exhausting, but a brisk walk around the yard is a great place to start. Aerobic exercise doesn’t necessarily mean getting the heartrate as high as possible.
6. Create your own routine
Did you know that few Americans are getting enough exercise each week? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. It is also recommended to include two days of full-body strength training. Keeping these recommendations in mind, patients can create a routine that suits their abilities and meets the CDC’s recommendations—with the guidance and approval of their doctor of course.
7. Create a meal plan
A healthy lifestyle means a balance between a healthy diet and activity. Developing a healthy eating plan will help patients fuel their body for their workouts.
8. Find new scenery
Doing a bit of exercise is always more enjoyable when it is done in a peaceful place. Visiting a park and doing light exercises can turn into the highlight of the day.
9. Take it slow
Not all exercise needs to be hard and fast. Finding a relaxing, restorative yoga routine can help improve balance and reduce stress.
10. Develop other healthy habits
While exercise is a great place to start, there are more healthy habits to be included in daily routines. Check out National Foundation for Cancer Research’s healthy lifestyle blogs to learn more.
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