Thursday, October 13, 2011

Can Exercise Really Help With Cancer?

by Liz Davies

Being diagnosed with cancer can be one of the worst moments in anyone's life. Thoughts of death are automatic. Once the initial shock is over, then it's on to the arduous battle. For so long people were told to save all of their energy so they provide their body with enough endurance to fight. Now, studies have found that exercise actually aids in the combat of cancer.

Research shows that those who exercise during treatments fare better in beating their cancer. Physicians agree that the patients who are more active seem not only physically stronger but also mentally. Because exercise creates a stronger body, that body is able to withstand treatments better.

This isn't to say that patients should get out and train for a marathon. An American College of Sports Medicine panel set new guidelines for the amount of exercise for cancer patients, as well as survivors. They've found that the same amount as everyone else, about 150 minutes a week, is beneficial. The only difference is the intensity of the workout. Aerobic exercise, stretching and resistance training are all recommended.

Through exercise, patients experience less fatigue. Aerobic exercise helps get the heart pumping. That keeps the red blood cell levels up, reducing the need for medication (when taken can cause even more fatigue.) Working out also helps with maintaining muscle and bone mass. So often, treatments affect this, and exercise helps combat it. Add in the mental benefits of feeling better and having another focus other than the disease, and that caps an already impressive list of reasons showing the helpfulness of exercise for cancer patients.

Though there are plenty of reasons why they should exercise, the hardest part is finding the motivation to actually do it. There's nothing more difficult than finding the motivation after a particularly hard chemo session. This is where a support group comes in handy. Friends and family understand them the best and know how to give that little nudge to get them going. There are also exercise support groups within some hospitals that specialize in training cancer patients and survivors. Most cancers have their own groups, including even rare cancers such as pericardial mesothelioma. Another step may be to set a goal or task to reach. Whether it's to be able to walk in a three day event or just to be able to put a shirt on without pain, the level is never too big or too small.

A cancer diagnosis isn't a death sentence. By undergoing the treatments and practical exercise, a person can come out stronger than when they started, both mentally and physically. The best thing a person can do for themselves is to help their body fight. They will have a more successful battle if they exercise.

Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She became particularly interested in ways cancer patients can cope with the side-effects of their treatment after her mother became an oncology nurse for lung cancer.

For more lessons like this one, feel free to go to -

For updates of new posts and for connecting with others who like these readings, feel free to “like” the SpirFit page at