As feats of strength go, keeping up an exercise regimen while dealing with the mental and physical stresses of cancer can be a tough one. Still, skipping all exercise when battling cancer may not be wise. Too much inactivity leads to muscle weakness, loss of flexibility and greater fatigue, all of which can slow recovery.
On the other hand, light or moderate exercise during and after cancer treatment helps maintain physical and mental strength, improves quality of life and can also boost your mood. Some doctors actually prescribe exercise for cancer patients.
The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia issued a recommendation last year that exercise should be part of cancer care since it can counteract adverse effects of cancer and its treatment. The group advised patients to work with their cancer care team to create an exercise program to fit their abilities, disease trajectory and current health status.
Even if cancer patients can’t exercise as intensely as they did before their diagnosis, they can still benefit from light exercise, says the American Cancer Society. If your doctor approves, aim for at least 150 minutes a week and include strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
To get moving
- Take a leisurely walk or bike ride around the neighborhood.
- Challenge family or friends to a game of horseshoes, croquet, badminton, cornhole or miniature golf.
- Rake leaves, sweep the patio or weed your garden.
- Take your grandkids outdoors and build a fort or play a game.
- Fold laundry, iron, dust or stretch while watching television.
To get stronger
If you don’t enjoy lifting weights, “weighted carries” can help you build functional fitness. Just grab a pair of light hand weights, hold them by your sides and walk until your arms feel tired. As you build strength, increase exertion by using small kettlebells.