mWhen fighting cancer, increasing your activity level with exercise carries many benefits. It helps to promote energy, build stamina, and improve self-confidence and mood. While many cancer centers offer free exercise classes for those who need encouragement and social support, home-based exercise programs can be just as effective in building strength and reducing the fatigue that comes with radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
Exercise is emerging as being extremely beneficial in the fight against all types of cancer. In fact, a study by The National Cancer Institute found patients were actually averaging 12,000 steps a day, while those without cancer were recommended to try for 10,000. These results came from using resistance bands and walking. Participants were asked to work on increasing the number of steps they took per day and perform one set of 15 repetitions with the bands for three days per week. Gradually, participants increased their band exercises to include three or four sets.
What the study showed was that these small initial efforts to exercise by those with prostate or breast cancer gave the participants more strength and stamina to handle their radiation treatments. Those who didn’t exercise showed a marked decrease in their muscle strength. Since increased mobility, better balance, and improved physical functioning is essential to quality of life, even those with aggressive cancers such as mesothelioma or pancreatic cancer need to remain active in order to improve or maintain their current energy levels, strength and wellbeing.
Exercise shouldn’t be seen as a burden. That’s why patients who participated in the study were simply asked to try to improve the number of steps, repetitions or sets they performed per day. That’s extremely doable even for those who have difficulty breathing or who struggle with nausea. You aren’t competing with anyone else other than yourself. The beauty of exercise is that no matter how small you start out, there is always room to improve. If you can only walk two blocks today, try to walk two blocks plus a few more steps tomorrow. If you can only do a single repetition with a resistant band today, then try to do one and a half repetitions tomorrow.
Above all, don’t focus on what you can’t do. The purpose of exercise isn’t to make you feel bad about yourself. The purpose of increasing your activity is to give you the tools and increased sense of wellbeing you need to fight the cancer and improve your chances for survival.