Today’s guest post by Virginia Cunningham is a good motivator for me and many of you out there dealing with the effects and aftereffects of treatment. It’s easy to say, “I’m too tired to exercise.” Or as it is here today, ” The weather is too crappy to go out.” Lucky for me I have a husband who motivates me to walk with him every evening no matter what! I also go to a yoga class at The Cancer Support Community. I know I can always do more, but when I do, I’m usually more energized and even my mood improves. I’ll turn it over here to Virginia, who’ll tell you why exercise is a must for us!
There’s no question that cancer treatment, whether it be surgery, chemotherapy or some other form of radiation, is tremendously hard on the human body. Patients will often feel far worse as a result of the treatment than from the cancer itself, usually experiencing fatigue and nausea more often than before.
However, there is a fair amount of research that suggests exercise might be not only safe, but a beneficial way to improve your health and the quality of life during and after your cancer treatment.
One of the biggest hurdles that those undergoing cancer treatment face is a steep drop in energy and a rise in overall fatigue. This is usually a direct result of the treatment, and can often have little or nothing to do with the cancer itself, as many types of cancers are initially without significant symptoms.
Becoming idler doesn’t address this issue, and could possibly even cause you to become more fatigued, simply because you’re not getting out and being active. In general, an inactive person risks losing muscle mass, which, in turn, can slow down the rate of metabolism. As you lose muscle and gain fat, you’ll only end up decreasing your energy levels even further.
If you’re able, keeping up with a daily exercise routine will help you avoid this cycle by boosting your energy levels, and can even have positive effects in terms of actually helping to combat your cancer.
In the short term, staying active will help you maintain the energy you’ll need to get you through the day, as well as through future treatments. If you can keep it up, you’ll also be setting yourself up to be stronger once you successfully come out of treatment, and you’ll likely have a more positive outlook when it comes to cancer and overall health.
Especially during the early stages of your treatment, your immune system will be much weaker in having the ability to fight off illness. Therefore, it is very important that you do whatever you can to support it by taking supplements, particularly Vitamin D and foods that contain several antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E).
Your body’s ability to fight cancer is often predicated upon its strength and how well your body has been maintained for when you do ultimately have to begin treatment.
The bottom line is that the stronger you are, both physically and mentally, the more successful you’ll likely be in getting through treatment while maintaining that strength. In many cases, those who stay active before, during and after their cancer treatment are less likely at risk of recurrence or developing a new cancer unrelated to the original diagnosis.
There is even a fair amount of research and consensus among medical professionals that exercise can reduce the risk of developing cancer in the first place.
If exercise is one of your best weapons against cancer, it doesn’t make sense to shelve it while you’re undergoing treatment.
In some cases, patients might have to adjust the intensity levels at which they exercise, particularly if they’re doing so in the following days after a treatment. If your body is telling you that it just doesn’t have the strength to exercise or keep up with a certain intensity level, go with a lighter activity and work your way up until you become stronger.
This could be difficult for those who were previously active before their diagnosis, but those people need to keep in mind that they’re effectively rebuilding their body and strength, so taking it slow is recommended.
Helping your Body
At almost any point in life, exercise is going to be beneficial to your health in a variety of ways. While you may not feel your very best every day, you should try participating in at least some kind of physical activity, and avoid giving into the fatigue and low-energy levels you might expect as a result of your treatment.
The more you can help your body in that situation, the better your short and long-term prognosis will be.
Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer and health enthusiast in the Los Angeles area. She highly encourages those who are combating cancer to include at least some form of physical activity in their daily lives, as it will only help them become stronger in the long term.