For cancer patients, regular workouts can provide enjoyment and escape, and can stimulate the immune system to strengthen the body – once exercise becomes part of the fight against cancer for patients, it’s important to do it safely.
- Consult a doctor. A physician can determine the types of exercises that may work best. Cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy often produce negative side effects, so it’s important to consult a doctor to determine the best time in a treatment regimen to begin working out.
- Start slowly. Patients should set realistic expectations and be kind to their bodies – it is okay if it’s harder or different than exercise used to be. As with any workout, endurance and strength should be built slowly.
- Find your center. Cancer can affect the mind, body and soul. Patients should try exploring mind/body exercise like Tai Chi, Yoga, Nia or Pilates. Often, the connection of breath and body can help reduce stress and pain, and help clear the mind.
- Fight Infections. Cancer can lower the immune system, making bodies more susceptible to germs and infections. If patients are going to work out at a gym, disinfecting equipment before and after use, and bringing personal equipment rather than using the supplied yoga mats, exercise balls and hand weights will be important.
- Breathe. When weight lifting, cancer patients should not forget to exhale when lifting the weight and inhale when lowering the weight. Holding one’s breath can cause changes in blood pressure, which is not recommended.
- Be aware of heart rate changes. Cancer medications may affect the heart rate of some patients, so it’s best to avoid tracking a pulse to judge the intensity of a workout as to not overexert the body. Every day with cancer can be different; it’s important to listen to your body.
Appropriate exercise is just one more weapon in the fight against cancer. While everyone should exercise safely, cancer patients should make it a priority.
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