Cancer, the big C, is a word that evokes emotion for most of us. It seems everyone I ask can share personal stories of how someone close to them (or themselves) have struggled against the big C. This guest post from David Haas digs into 4 fitness facts that are essential for cancer patients.
As I read through David’s post I kept thinking back to the movie 50/50. The movie deals with the reality of cancer. In it Adam, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, discovers he has cancer. Exercise plays a key role in how Adam copes with cancer in the movie.
So let’s dive into David’s post on 4 fitness facts essential to know when you discover you have cancer.
In recent years, it has become almost impossible to overstate the many positive health benefits of fitness and regular physical exercise, even for cancer patients. Whether you have recently been diagnosed, are undergoing treatment, or recovering from cancer, increasing your fitness level through exercise can significantly improve your quality of life. We now know that exercise boosts mood, increases energy levels, reduces weight, and improves length and quality of sleep. Even if you are currently undergoing treatment for your cancer, like mesothelioma treatment or chemotherapy for breast cancer, exercise can help you in all of these areas.
Exercise is known to increase metabolism or the rate at which your body burns energy in the form of food. This will lead to lower levels of fatigue- a very common complaint heard from cancer patients. The various treatments can help fight cancer, but they can come at a cost. That cost is felt as a constant, even debilitating fatigue that makes everyday activities almost impossible. By increasing your metabolic rate, exercise will allow you to better get through your day and treatments and sleep better at night.
If you take your exercise in the form of resistance training, you will see an additional benefit- healthy weight loss. Not only will you be burning calories during your workouts, you will be burning them at rest too. That is because resistance training builds muscle, and muscle burns calories, even at rest. Combining resistance training with aerobic activity will also strengthen your heart and increase your endurance.
Vigorous exercise will also help you sleep better and longer. And the sleep comes from expending a lot of energy during your routine. Your body needs that recovery time. This is different from the fatigue that can come from treatment or your current condition.
A study by Arizona State University found that people who engaged in regular physical activity experienced less daytime fatigue and better sleep than those who didn’t.
Relief From Pain and Muscle Tension
Regular exercise can help you with pain management. A good workout, run, or swim promotes the release of certain chemicals in your body called endorphins. These powerful chemicals are the body’s own form of painkillers. Their release provokes feelings of lowered anxiety, contentment, and relaxation. Some cancer patients have found that they are able to actually reduce their dependence on prescription pain medication through exercise alone.
Exercise also helps relieve the soreness and muscle tension that sometimes accompanies cancer treatment. Simply getting the blood flowing to those sore areas can help provide healing and relief and promote muscle relaxation.
Reduction of Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression affect many cancer patients. Feeling sick and tired all the time and perhaps burdened by high medical bills would depress anyone. Exercise is extremely effective in relieving anxiety and depression. Some studies have even shown it to be at least as effective as prescription antidepressants in relieving symptoms.
About the author: David Haas is a cancer support group and awareness program advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. In addition to researching the many valuable programs available to our site’s visitors, David often blogs about programs and campaigns underway at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, as well as creative fitness ideas for those dealing with cancer, while creating relationships with similar organizations.
If you, or someone you know, is battling the big C and is searching for ways to get started here are some programs you may be interested. Craig Ballantyne has created Turbulence Training programs for bodyweight conditioning as well as developing Metabolic Resistance Training. Either program would be a great way to battle cancer.