Many common cancer treatments and surgeries are invasive and have uncomfortable or painful side-effects which make movement and participation in even the most basic of activities a challenge. Patients are traditionally told to take it easy after being diagnosed or undergoing surgery and treatments. However, a change in school of thought has been gaining momentum over the last few years that is directly juxtaposed to this ‘kick back to kick cancer’ attitude. Health and exercise professionals including the MacMillan “Move More” Report and the American College of Sports medicine have research demonstrating that those patients diagnosed with cancer who perform moderate exercise for at least 150 minutes weekly are experiencing improved rates of successful recovery. Let’s explore some of these types of activity and outline some of the tangible benefits for those on the journey of recovery.
Yoga has long been touted as beneficial for aligning the body’s processes and systems because of its focus on core strength and breathing. Asana, which are poses or a series thereof, encourage the body to breathe in and out in specific and structured ways. For cancer patients, ridding the body’s systems of toxins and getting back to chemical and hormonal homeostasis is a top priority. Ýoga and yoga breathing are perfect and gentle ways to get the body moving to achieve this goal and these can be modified in any number of ways to suit patients with any restrictions owing to side-effects of surgery or treatment. The use of Yoga as a therapy allows cancer patients to increase the activity levels in anti-cancer cells that boost immunity. These cells, called macrophages are aggressive scavengers which rid our bodies of toxins, dead cells and debris. They are foremost among our body’s weapons that create antigens as part of our immune response to infection and disease. YogaUOnline.com notes that, “Studies have shown that regular exercise releases tension and decreases depression, two issues that many suffering or recovering from cancer is all too familiar with.” In the battlefield of the mind of patients, having any weapon to combat these enemies is a potent ally indeed!
It’s no small a wonder that Pilates is gaining popularity as beneficial to cancer patients in recovery and remission. Many suffer weakened major muscle groups as a consequence of invasive, body-altering surgeries as they and their physicians seek to banish the baddies from the body. Though it is appropriate to rest until incisions heal within reason; the ability to perform Pilates from a lying down or supine position means that an all-important active recovery is available sooner thereby reducing the incidence of adhesions. The reintroduction of movements through Pilates will benefit muscle strength, posture, range of motion and those actions needed to feel more surety in performing daily tasks.
Looking for an easy and readily accessible work-out program? Walking for 30 minutes at a pace sufficient to raise the heart rate into the cardio zone is still one of the best and most recommended exercise plans of all. To find your target heart rate, as prescribed by the CDC click here and remember that 30 minutes of walking, 5 times per week, is enough exercise to keep your systems shedding those toxins and your muscle groups moving and your hormone levels normalizing. All of these are critical when your goal is have a body that is a cancer no-zone!
The Bottom Line is the Finish Line
Exercise need not be strenuous to be effective. A panel at the Pennsylvania School of medicine concluded that cancer patients and survivors should aim to get the same amount of aerobic exercise, stretching and strength training weekly as is recommended for those without cancer. That’s right; the same as everyone else. (Of course, doctors do not expect, nor is it possible for patients to always maintain this same level, but patients should avoid inactivity as much as they can). The benefits of this type of benchmark for patients are important because it’s not just the bodies but also the hearts and minds of patients which stand to profit greatly. Much of the process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery places patients in a mental arena wherein they are self-identifying or classified as separate, different or alone. Getting back to exercise, gardening, walking the dog or strolling on the beach, will not only benefit patients physically, but will bring the focus back from the hinterlands of diagnoses past and focused on the finish line of recovery ahead.