Staying Active during Cancer Treatment
Staying active provides many benefits during cancer treatment. It can help you maintain a healthy body weight, as well as reduce your risk of a cancer recurrence, a secondary cancer, or other medical problems (like hypertension or diabetes). Physical activity has also been shown to help combat fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression. Plus, it just improves your overall quality of life during treatment.
According to the American Cancer Society, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week. This requires just a little over 20 minutes a day. You don’t have to hit the gym to get that amount of activity. Following are a few ideas to help you meet that goal. Remember: Before you start any exercise regimen, be sure to clear it with your oncologist or primary-care physician:
Try yoga, t’ai chi, or qigong. These ancient practices — which involve postures, stretching, breathing, and sometimes meditation — are being studied for their ability to promote relaxation and improve quality of life during cancer treatment. The combination of physical movement, breathing, and quieting the mind may produce compounds that promote relaxation. Some cancer centers offer these types of programs for their patients, but a physical therapist may be able to help you find a credible program as well.
Take a walk. Walking is one of the easiest ways to get the activity you need. If the weather is nice, you can step outside and get some fresh air and sunshine as you do it. If it’s cold or raining, don’t let that stop you! You can walk on a treadmill at a gym or health center. Or try walking in an indoor mall. You can meet friends there to walk and talk. Even if you walk alone, just being around other people may help lift your spirits. Plus, you may even be able to engage in a little retail therapy after you get your walk in. Note: If your white blood cell count is low, avoid crowded places like gyms and malls to reduce your exposure to germs. In such cases, consider simply walking around your house, investing in your own treadmill, or purchasing a video game with a walking activity if you have a gaming console in your home (like Walk It Out! on the Nintendo Wii).
Take advantage of commercial breaks. If you’re feeling fatigued from treatment, you may find yourself watching a lot of television. But getting up and moving may help you feel less tired than just sitting there. On commercial breaks, try walking up and down a flight of stairs, do a little stretching or yoga, or lift some light handheld weights or even use your bodyweight. An hour-long TV show has 15 to 20 minutes of commercials, so you can meet your daily exercise needs while watching your favorite guilty pleasure!