Saturday, February 24, 2018
Evidence proves those suffering from cancer could benefit by including exercise in their treatment program. Studies continue to show the advantages of physical activity while battling this disease. Historically, exercise was not considered a typical survival mechanism against cancer. However, recent successes prove it could be a lifesaver in many ways …

The Power to Heal: Exercise Therapy to Combat Cancer

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The American College of Sports Medicine urges cancer patients to get active. In newly released guidelines, experts advise exercise during and after cancer treatment. Of course, each patient needs to proceed at his/her comfort level and with physician guidance. Overexertion could lead to setbacks and frustration. There isn’t room for these intruders when you are already physically and mentally exhausted.

Cancer treatment is very intense. It can rob you of so much. Inviting exercise into your life at this time, even if you were previously a couch potato, can be a blessing. Doing something healthy for yourself as you face health challenges can create its own healing power. For some, it’s an element of normalcy to which they can cling. It provides an escape, a chance to alleviate worries and go beyond traditional medicine. It’s an opportunity to do something enjoyable.

According to epidemiologist Kathryn Schmitz, Ph.D., staying put and resting can be detrimental during times like this. Schmitz, who studies the role of physical activity in chronic diseases, presented guidelines at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s recent annual meeting. Her research launched a 13-member American College of Sports Medicine expert panel that developed new recommendations after evaluating literature on the safety and efficacy of exercise during and after cancer therapy.

How Much?

There is a growing body of quality evidence to encourage cancer patients to trade 20 minutes of rest for the same of exercise. If possible, incorporate this into your daily regimen, just as you’d schedule medicine, chemotherapy, and doctor appointments. Exercise is proven as a safe and beneficial complement to cancer treatment programs.  As recommended for the general public, 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week yields results.

What Type & Why?

Discuss your unique situation with a personal trainer and Group Fitness instructor to create a workout program tailored to your needs. Review this routine with your physician prior to beginning and throughout your treatment. Consider the gentle yet effective benefits of aquatic exercise. Gentle yoga can soothe your muscles as well as your thoughts. Aerobic exercise delivers cardiac benefits and improves energy levels. Personal training can increase strength and stamina.

Exercise can help boost one's recovery and spirits.
Exercise can help boost one's recovery and spirits.

In the general population, exercise is proven to improve mood, relieve anxiety and depression, and combat fatigue. These are common challenges endured by those undergoing cancer and other medical treatments. Attitude affects the body’s ability to function and respond. A safe, invigorating workout encourages a positive outlook and improves self-confidence. At a time like this, it’s essential to believe in yourself and your body’s capabilities. Exercise accomplishments can reflect your outer and inner strength.

Weight gain as well as weight loss can be an outcome of cancer symptoms and medications. Both ends of the scale can improve through exercise. For example, studies indicate exercise for weight control and reduction in body mass may actually reduce the risk of recurrence for breast cancer patients and, ultimately, decrease breast cancer mortality. For patients suffering from cancer-related weight loss, physical activity maintains and builds lean body mass.

Be Pro-Active

Now more than ever, be mindful in your approach to fitness. Pay close attention to your body’s response so as to avoid injury and complications. By working with a personal trainer or exercising with a group in a fitness class, you have additional support.  This is especially helpful for those who have difficulty recognizing their limitations. Connecting with a community that makes health and fitness a priority is also motivating, particularly on days when you are completely downhearted.

Consider what you are going through at any given moment. For example, if your bones are weakened from treatment, weightlifting might best be postponed for another time. Perhaps one day is for Group Groove and another is for an easy walk around the house. Listen to your body and, literally, take it one step at a time.

With recent findings, the healthcare world faces a new demand. Exercise rehabilitation for cancer is an emerging segment in the fitness world. Customized physical activities are increasingly popular for survivors. Consider the Lance Armstrong Foundation and their impressive progress. The Center’s professionals continue to gain knowledge and expand in all areas to benefit members’ needs. We strive to inspire not only during times of peak performance, but also when struggling through a tragedy such as cancer.

While researching this article, I interviewed a friend undergoing cancer treatments. I happened to catch her while she walked the treadmill. A complete fitness buff, she treads on, trampling cancer’s fight to keep her down. “I just want to live my life,” she insists. Through exercise, she is capturing a piece of her life back.

Acknowledge yourself as a survivor. Look to your future and prepare for it with a strong body.


“Cancer? More Exercise, Not Less, May Be Best,” Kate Stinchfield at

“New Cancer Guidelines: Exercise During and After Treatment Is Now Encouraged,” at

“New Guidelines Strongly Recommend Exercise for Cancer Patients, Survivors,” American College of Sports Medicine at

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