The childhood song lyrics, “the ankle bones connected to the… leg bone”, may ring a bell. And, as silly as the song is, its main point is very true and important. All body structures, including bones, muscles, nerves and even organs, are importantly connected. They all rhythmically move together in collaborative shifts which allow for efficient movement without unnecessary compression. This orchestra of movement is made possible by the connective tissue—or fascia. When the connective tissue is dehydrated or diseased, whole body movement is compromised. This is often the case with sarcoma, the cancer of such connective tissue.
Stretching and exercising provide important stimulation for fascia. The activities help it to become reinforced along lines of strain through remodeling and rebuilding. They help to facilitate the movement of lymph through the lymphatic vessels which live in the connective tissue. They also help to organize the metabolic processes in the cell in order to be more efficient and help to increase the recruitment and number of mitochondria (metabolic cell parts). As such, exercise and stretching are important for everyone and at all times. They are especially key after being diagnosed with sarcoma.
Exercise for sarcoma patients differs from exercise for healthy individuals, mainly in intensity, duration and orientation. It is especially important to respect the connective tissue when sarcoma is present. This is to say, the exercise chosen should help to improve the extensibility of the myofascial chains which are retracted. In other words, the tight areas which limit efficient movement should be intelligently stretched. Tightness or dysfunctional movement in any part of the body can impact the area where the tumor is. By increasing controlled range of all joints, tension will be lifted from the tumor. This is because the connective tissue is, by definition, continuous to elsewhere in the body.
Strength and endurance training are also important for sarcoma patients. Treatment for sarcoma is often degenerative. Exercise can help the patient to sustain muscle mass and cardiac health. As a result, it is recommended for sarcoma patients to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This exercise is best to be strength-endurance training that respects the tensegrity biomechanics of the body. In other words, the strength training used needs to be oriented towards minimizing fascial stress and joint compression. In addition, the intensity of the training should be perceived as being moderate. The deconditioned state of many cancer patients may mean that a typical moderate intensity based on heart rate could be too intense for a cancer patient. Intensity should therefore be based off of perceived exertion—perceived by the patient.
Regular and intelligent exercise can assist sarcoma patients as they adapt their lifestyle. In addition, ensuring the health of the connective tissue by drinking enough water and consuming balanced minerals will benefit general health. Myofascial stretching can be of great use for sarcoma patients. It can help to improve their mobility and functional capacity. It can also help to lessen the pressure around the tumor(s). It is advised to check in with a professional before engaging in a new exercise routine. Finally, the help of an expert in devising an intelligent exercise regimen is suggested.
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