Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Guest Post by David Haas: Fitness During and After Cancer

Fitness During and After Cancer

by David Haas
Exercise improves energy, builds strength, boosts immunity, controls weight and promotes better sleep. Perhaps these are the very reasons that patients undergoing cancer treatments should participate in a regular fitness regimen. Whether recently diagnosed, currently receiving treatment or going through remission, exercise should be a priority to improve the overall quality of life.

An expert panel for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released guidelines in 2010 that encourages cancer patients get out and exercise as often as possible. This is contrary to the previous thought that cancer patients should rest. Research shows that moderate aerobic exercise at least 30 minutes, five times per week is generally recommended depending on the type of cancer and treatment. Programs consisting of weight training, moderate cardio activities and swimming can be designed on a case-by-case basis by a qualified fitness trainer.

Research shows that inactivity often occurs after diagnosis. This can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which can cause depression, weight gain and a slow recovery. While 70 percent of patients experience fatigue during treatment, it has been shown that rest does not relieve this condition and being sedentary often leads to muscle loss. Exercise can control weight gain and weight loss depending on the patient's situation. The ACSM suggests that both groups can improve lean body mass and increase strength. In addition, it is one of the best ways to improve mood and regain energy.

Stamina, fitness level, stage of cancer and type of cancer are all factors in the type of fitness regimen a patient chooses. For instance, mesothelioma patients may find that moderate to high-intensity cardiovascular activities limited due to decreased lung function. For those situations, as well as beginners to exercise, short walks, bike rides and lightweight training 20 to 30 minutes per day is sufficient. Yoga is another low-impact activity that can improve lung function and muscle development. Later stage cancers can cause weakened immunity and in those cases, lighter exercise at home or in the fresh air may be a better choice than a public, enclosed gym.

Over-exercising can be harmful resulting in nausea, dizziness, injuries and even illness, so easing in to a fitness routine is the best way to go. The patient’s doctor should always approve workouts.

The diagnosis of cancer can be extremely overwhelming. Exercise can be an outlet to relieve stress and enhance emotional wellbeing. No matter the activity, exercise should be fun instead of a chore. Find something enjoyable and make it a part of your life during treatment and for years to come. Regain control of your life with a regular fitness regimen that can improve health and keep cancer from coming back.