How exercise can benefit cancer patients

The conventional wisdom about being sick in general, and specifically for people fighting cancer, is that rest is best. Rest is necessary, but the latest research says that cancer patients can and should be active, that physical activity can actually provide a whole host of benefits. Even for those battling a really difficult type of cancer, like mesothelioma, getting in some activity can improve energy, increase fitness, provide better outcomes, and boost mood.
Before you find out what all the great benefits are of exercise, it is important to understand that cancer patients are not typical training clients. They have physical limitations and could get hurt doing a regular workout routine. Any cancer patient interested in getting more active must do two things: talk to your medical team first to get the OK and then find a trainer experienced in working with people who have physical limits and specialized needs. With the right trainer and guided, safe workouts, exercising can provide all these benefits:

  • Better overall health. Just as physical activity gets healthy people fit and in better health, regular exercise can also improve the overall health of someone fighting cancer. While sick it can be easy to lose fitness and muscle mass, but even modified gentle exercise can help maintain physical fitness. With improved cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength, a patient can better tolerate cancer treatments and can expect to rebound more quickly.
  • Increased energy. Fatigue is one of the most common complications of cancer and chemotherapy. This severe kind of tiredness makes doing any activity a challenge and makes just getting out of bed a chore. In studies of cancer patients working out, researchers found that exercise actually boosted energy and reduced fatigue. It may be a struggle to get up and try it, but working out does improve energy.
  • Less anxiety, stress, depression. Exercise has long been known to be a mood booster, something that anyone living with cancer can use. People going through cancer treatments are especially vulnerable to experiencing depression, feeling anxious, and being stressed. Regular physical activity can significantly reduce these feelings and help provide a healthy outlet for them.
  • Better body image. Going through cancer can feel like your body is turning against you and many people either gain weight or lose weight. Exercise can help a patient feel better about her body by helping her maintain weight and feel stronger and more in control.
  • Better overall outcomes. One very exciting benefit of exercise for cancer patients is that regular exercise can actually improve life expectancy. One study found that cancer patients engaging in exercise for a minimum of two and a half hours each week were significantly less likely to die than similar patients who were inactive. Patients who exercise were also less likely to have recurrences of cancer and tolerated treatments better.

Exercise has so many benefits for just about anyone, including people battling a serious illness like cancer. If you are living with cancer, reach out to your medical team and find out if you are well enough to try working out a few times a week. With the right trainer on your side, you can get all of these amazing benefits, and just generally feel better.

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