How Fitness Can Help After Cancer
by Liz Davies
There is a saying that cancer itself is not usually the painful part about having it- it's the treatments. Although many cancer treatments such as targeted radiation or chemotherapy do their job as designed, the side effects can be terrible. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fevers, lack of appetite, pain when swallowing, and many more effects are common during these treatments. The worst part is that they all work to hurt the cancer survivor's nutrition and contribute to weight loss.
With the decrease in body mass and nutrition comes muscular wasting, which can have negative effects on the body for years after cancer patients have beaten their condition. That is why it's so important to begin exercising as soon as the doctor has cleared the patient. This goes for people with low survival rate cancers like pleural mesothelioma and epithelial mesothelioma or people dealing with cancers that have higher survival rates like breast cancer and testicular cancer. Exercising combats the side effects of cancer treatments by increasing appetite. The patient begins to eat more food and improve their nutritional status. With better nutrition comes more energy to get in shape and build muscle mass.
Walking is the best way for cancer survivors to start an exercise regimen. Simply begin walking three to five times a week for fifteen minutes apiece. As the former patient's energy grows, he or she will be able to walk for longer and faster. In this style, the rate of exercise can be gradually increased to include periods of running and, eventually, only running at faster and faster paces. Just as the cancer treatment journey was begun with a single step, exercise programs require a single walk on a day like today in order to get started.
It's also beneficial to visit a gym. Some local YMCAs even have special programs for cancer survivors and will offer a discount on a trainer in the weight room. An experienced trainer can work to slowly build muscles by beginning with a few select machines with low weights. As the weeks go by, the former patient will be able to lift more and more. The benefits last and include mental effects as well. Increased self esteem will be felt due to the milestones accomplished.
The cancer survivor needs motivation and encouragement to keep going. It's important to gain support from a spouse, friends, or coworkers. Sometimes setting goals can help too. An event like a 5k can set a date to be prepared for in the future and ensure that the former cancer patient continues exercising to prepare for it. 5ks can provide evidence of progress and improved strength too. Many 5ks benefit different types of cancers and so it does double duty: the cancer survivor can raise money to help people in their own situation while improving their fitness, endurance, and health at the same time.
Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April.
Teri Lang Patterson
Certified Fitness Instructor & Coach specializing in Aqua Power Training, Kickboxing, Weight Training & Yoga.
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