Many of you have asked about my experience with breast cancer. I am preparing a series of posts in which I will share what I have gone (and am going) through and answer questions I have been asked. One of the most important, yet sometimes most difficult (physically) things I deal with is exercise. Today's guest post is from Liz Davies; enjoy her insights on the benefits of exercise for cancer patients. Thanks, Liz!
The Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients
The vast array of benefits that accrue from regular exercise for cancer patients is unquestionable. In the context of this article, physical activity refers to any sort of bodily movement produced by skeletal movement that requires an expenditure of energy. There are numerous general health effects of exercise that range from helping to control weight, maintaining health bones, muscles and joints, reducing risk of high blood pressure and diabetes and promoting psychological well-being. All of these general health effects would prove to be extremely beneficial for cancer patients in helping to maintain the foundational health of the body during intensive cancer treatments such as Chemotherapy, which can be very hard on the body.
However, the most important positive influence of exercise for cancer patients is likely the psychological benefit of improved well-being. This benefit is crucial because cancer is such an emotionally and psychologically demanding illness and as a result, the emotional/mental health of cancer patients often deteriorates and is neglected due to the overriding importance of keeping the cancer in check or in remission. Moreover, exercise has been shown to aid in improving cancer patients' self-perception of physical image, which often poses a problem due to side effects from chemotherapy and surgeries. From this perspective, exercise can help improve psychological well being which will help cancer patients confront depression, lethargy, anxiety and high levels of stress, which often occur as side effects of having cancer and undergoing traditional cancer treatment protocols.
To this end, recent research indicates that physical activity after a diagnosis of breast cancer may be beneficial in improving the quality of life, reducing fatigue, and assisting with energy balance. Exercise is especially helpful in bases of hormone responsive tumors, such as some types of breast cancer, since exercise has been known to have a normalizing effect on endocrine secretion and thus promote hormonal balance in some cases. One study found that women who exercised moderately (the equivalent of walking 3 to 5 hours per week at an average pace) after a diagnosis of breast cancer had improved survival rates compared with more sedentary women. These scientifically-validated findings indicate that exercise should be promoted as an adjunct therapy for cancer patients in light of the potential psychological and physical benefits that may ensue.
In order to stay motivated with an exercise program, cancer patients must make sure to stick to a regular plan that fits with their current physical capabilities so that it will be easy to incorporate into one's lifestyle. To this end, it is recommended that cancer patients embrace a simple routine that is specifically tailored to the contextual factors of their illness, such as moderately-paced walking a few times per week. This process would likely be enhanced by working with an accredited personal trainer and would thus help to maximize psychological and physical benefits. If in need of more psychological help there are many groups for people with all types of cancers like breast cancer, liver cancer and even mesothelioma support groups.
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. You can contact Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org