by Elisa Dely
The emotional and physical toll of a cancer diagnosis is immense, but one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health leading up to, during and after surgery or treatment is exercise. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), regular exercise can not only reduce the risk of developing cancer, but can also decrease the odds of its recurring. Exercise helps reduce inflammation, stress and helps keep you at a healthy body weight. It helps change your body chemistry so that it is more difficult for cancer to grow. In fact, being active can decrease your risk by about 23 percent!
The possible benefits of exercise include:
- Reduced stress and improved mood
- Improved self confidence
- Restored movement
- Alleviated symptoms of Lymphedema
- Greater range of motion, strength and mobility in the affected area
- Increased energy, reduced fatigue and better sleep
- Weight control
- Improved balance and reduced risk of falls and injury
- Lowered risk for heart disease
- Subsided nausea
All exercise programs should be cleared through your physician before you start.
Leading up to surgery
Many women report that their doctors have told them that their surgery and post op recovery was improved due to the fact they were strong and in shape from the beginning.
- Full body workouts including multi-joint exercises will help you get on your feet much sooner.
- Core exercises such as planks and leg lifts can help you lift your body when you have limited use of your upper body.
- Upper body moves including strength and stretching will help your affected side recover and maintain balances upper body after surgery.
- Lower body exercises make it much easier to get into and out of bed with out the help of the arms and chest muscles.
- Cardiovascular exercise such as brisk walking or biking will give you more stamina and energy levels.
Gentle exercising during treatment, as approved by your doctor, can improve energy levels, decrease stress, improve overall outlook and help maintain strength as you work toward recovery. It is important during this time to make sure you listen to your body, eat well, and engage the help of a professional who is qualified to design gentle and appropriate exercise based on the type of surgery and treatment. Many people feel relief from stretching, range of motion and low-level core exercise. Going at your own pace and resting as you go are very important during this phase. Staying hydrated and eating healthy, non-processed foods frequently during the day will keep your energy levels up.
Post Rehab and Recovery
Great things can happen post rehab as you continue to recover. There are many exercises that help re-build strength and stamina, as well as improving range of motion and flexibility. Additionally, improving mood and self-esteem are essential. Many people find that exercise is empowering. The ACS says that increasing your intensity and challenging yourself while listening to your body is the best way to continue to improve your physical health. Beginning a walking program and continuing to increase the intensity of your resistance and flexibility exercises will help improve your physical and mental outlook for the rest of your life.
Beginning any exercise program can seem daunting, particularly if you are undergoing cancer treatment or have never exercised regularly before. To make your exercise program effective and maintainable, it is important to find a routine or program that works for you. Try contacting a local cancer program for a reference to a qualified coach, find a workout buddy to retain motivated, and talk to your doctor for input.