Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Importance of Fitness for Cancer Survivors


Once a patient has conquered cancer, the next obstacle is often one thing: to prevent that cancer from returning. While most people focus on preventing cancer by exercising and eating well, it is also important to remember that the same healthy habits can stop cancer from recurring within the body. Keep in mind that keeping fit has the same benefits for a cancer survivor as it does for anyone else, namely: to help reduce fatigue, increase the amount of energy you have, and improve your mood and even outlook on life. A 2002 study on melanoma patients and survivors shows that aerobic exercise helps alleviate fatigue, no small task for a recovering cancer patient.

Throughout treatment, many patients tend to reduce the amount of daily activity. While this may be necessary for proper recovery, it is important to try and pick up level of activity as strength gradually returns. Weight loss is a common side effect of many cancers, and with that comes significant muscle loss. A strength training routine can gradually build up the muscle that may have been lost, and reduce the percentage of fat within the body. While there are no specific guidelines, the best way to begin such a routine is to slowly increase the weights and repetitions of each exercise. Weights are not necessary in the beginning--it is enough to do isometric or body weight work like push-ups or sit-ups. These are especially easy to fit in, and do not require any special equipment.

Cardiovascular exercise is certainly important to build back up fitness after cancer. For people who have recovered from lung or heart specific cancers, such as mesothelioma or malignant sarcomas of heart, cardiovascular exercise is vital. It is important that prior to the start of such a program, patients check with their oncologists and get the green light to begin. A workout routine like walking, jogging, or swimming can strengthen the heart, increase blood flow, and improve lung function.

The American Cancer Society recommends that adult cancer survivors can exercise 5 days a week for 30 minutes each time. Take your heart rate, and be sure not to exceed your maximum heart rate for some time after recovering from cancer. If you were very active previously, it will be easier to resume your routine. If you are starting from scratch, allow yourself plenty of time to adjust to a new schedule. This should be a lifelong healthy habit, not simply a short overwhelming plan that exhausts you.

By: David Haas

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