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Embracing Fitness While Fighting Cancer

January 17, 2024

A cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean one has to give up things they like to do. For one of life’s most challenging fights, staying strong by staying fit matters.

Research shows that people with cancer who engage in regular physical activity experience a host of physical and mental health benefits, such as reduced fatigue and treatment side effects, a stronger appetite and immune system, and better coping with anxiety and depression.

One study found that breast cancer survivors who engaged in high levels of regular physical activity had a 40% reduced risk of death from the disease than survivors who were the least active.

Consider these tips to help maintain your fitness journey when you or a loved one has cancer.

Set Physical Activity Goals

According to the National Cancer Institute, people with cancer who get regular aerobic exercise benefit from reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue, quality of life, and physical function.

Aerobic activity is anything that increases your heart rate. Take a brisk walk around the neighborhood, jog, cycle, swim, or even dance. Find something you love to do that gets your heart pumping and do it.

The American Heart Association suggests the following physical activity recommendations:

  • Move more and sit less throughout the day
  • Incorporate at least two days each week of strength training, which includes lifting weights and body weight exercises
  • Strive for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, or a combination of the two. Gain even more benefits with 300 minutes (five hours) per week.

If you’re not currently physically active, don’t try to meet those goals all at once. Start slow and build up capacity to exercise. Your healthcare provider can help determine the best workout plan for you.

Take a Break if You Need It

There might be some days you don’t feel like getting in aerobic physical activity. If you aren’t feeling well after cancer treatment, it’s okay to take it easy.

Listen to your body and rest if you need to. However, try not to take off more than two days, and even if you don’t feel up to moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, you can still move your body. Try light activities, such as walking, painting, or cleaning up around the house.

More Benefits to Physical Activity

Still not convinced to get moving? Here are more benefits of physical activity for people with cancer:

  • Helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Improves muscle and bone strength
  • Improves physical function and mobility
  • Improves your range of motion
  • Increases your appetite
  • Reduces cancer treatment side effects
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Strengthens your immune system

There is no doubt that a cancer diagnosis can be hard. The most important thing to remember is your life isn’t over. Keep moving. Find something you love to do and do it. And don’t give up.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.