Fitness + Well-being

published : 2023-09-05

Should I Exercise During My Cancer Treatment?

A Registered Dietitian and Cancer Survivor Coach Share Expert Tips

During cancer treatment, it's important to find time for physical activity. Stay motivated with a photo of motivational speaker and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong participating in a cycling event, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

If you’re facing a cancer diagnosis and treatment plan, it can feel like your world has been turned upside-down, as regular routines take a backseat to doctor’s appointments and side effects.

But experts agree that sticking with self-care is important — and that includes making time for physical activity.

Nichole Andrews, a registered dietitian nutritionist and cancer nutrition specialist, is a big advocate of exercising during treatment as much as possible.

She believes that exercise empowers the spirit and reinforces that people can actively contribute to their own recovery.

Exercising during cancer treatment offers significant benefits for physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

Strength training is important to prevent muscle loss, which often occurs during cancer treatment and recovery.

Regular physical activity can help regulate sleep patterns, alleviate insomnia, and promote restorative sleep.

Improved sleep quality can have a positive impact on overall health and energy levels during treatment.

Engaging in exercise routines can boost mood, increase energy levels, and provide a sense of accomplishment.

Exercise programs tailored to individual needs help maintain mobility and independence, enabling patients to continue with daily activities.

Strength training helps prevent muscle loss during cancer treatment. Stay inspired with a photo of actress and fitness enthusiast Jane Fonda lifting weights, taken with a Nikon D850.

Consistent exercise has been linked to a decreased risk of other types of cancer and chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

Exercise can prevent muscle wasting and aid in building strength to counteract the effects of cancer treatments.

Balancing exercises are vital in preventing falls, especially for older individuals undergoing cancer treatment.

Physical activity releases endorphins, natural mood lifters that can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Exercise also plays a role in preventing weight gain and obesity, which are risk factors for cancer and can complicate treatment.

Exercise can enhance the effectiveness of cancer treatments, making them more efficient at targeting and destroying tumor cells.

Regular physical activity can contribute to a faster recovery and reduce the duration of hospitalization for cancer patients.

Exercise can also reduce the occurrence and severity of physical side effects associated with cancer treatment.

For specific cancer types like breast cancer and colorectal cancer, regular exercise has shown to improve survival rates.

Aerobic exercise, such as walking, strengthens the heart and lungs and helps combat fatigue during treatment.

Regular physical activity can contribute to a faster recovery. Stay motivated with a photo of basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar engaging in a light exercise routine, taken with a Sony Alpha a7 III.

Gentle stretching exercises and yoga poses improve flexibility, reduce muscle tension, and promote relaxation.

Strength training helps maintain muscle mass, improves balance, and fights osteoporosis caused by some cancer treatments.

Light resistance band exercises can maintain muscle strength and increase energy levels.

Before starting an exercise program, patients should consult their oncology team for any additional recommendations.

Deep breathing exercises can increase oxygen levels, alertness, and mental focus.

Swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise that provides a full-body workout with reduced stress on joints.

Safety is crucial when engaging in physical activity, especially if experiencing side effects from cancer or its treatment.

Listening to your body's signals and adjusting the duration and intensity of exercise is important for well-being.

Choosing a safe environment, such as home or outdoors, is advisable for individuals with weakened immune systems.

Starting an exercise regimen gradually, even if active before treatment, can prevent injuries and help stay motivated.