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Exercise and Cancer - Treating Exercise Like a Prescription

In January and February, we are often inundated with exercise and healthy living content. Whether it’s on social media, TV commercials, or magazine covers, it seems everyone’s focus is on diet and exercise this time of year. It’s of course important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but it’s always interesting to me how this is a short-term focus for so many people just because the holidays have just ended.

For us as cancer survivors, keeping a regular exercise routine year-round is actually critical, and I believe something that should be considered as seriously as the prescriptions we are given by our doctors! We follow our treatment regimens, so we should follow our exercise regimens as well. 

Exercise and Cancer - Why It’s So Important for Us 

exercise and cancer - tips for cancer patients

Many people aren’t aware, but regular exercise is actually instrumental in preventing cancer as well as cancer recurrence. As long as deemed safe by your doctor, it’s also important to maintain an exercise regimen as best you can during treatment. Exercising improves your muscle strength, which is something that is often lost during treatment. It also helps improve energy levels and reduces fatigue. So while it may seem counterintuitive to exercise while you’re feeling fatigued, even the smallest bit of added movement into your routine can help to restore your energy.  

Exercise Tips for Cancer Patients 

It is generally safe to do most types of exercise after being diagnosed with cancer and also while going through treatment. Of course, always consult with your doctor as to what is safe to do in your specific case, but here are some tips for exercising with cancer: 

  • Start slow and build up over time. You don’t have to jump right in so don’t feel bad if you need to start slow. Even a short walk is beneficial, so start as slow as you need to and build up to a regimen that is comfortable for you. Take as many breaks as you need to as well. 

  • Try multiple different types of exercise. The American Cancer Society recommends mixing cardiovascular exercise (walking, jogging, etc) with resistance training throughout the week. You can also try things like Yoga and Tai Chi to give your body (and mind) multiple experiences. 

  • Stretch. No matter the type of exercise you do, always aim to finish with stretching as well. Yoga is a great way to combine exercise with stretching, and there are lots of different levels and types so you certainly don’t need to be an expert!    

  • Try to keep it fun! It’s much easier to find the motivation to exercise when it’s something you actually look forward to doing. And as mentioned above - you can start as small as you need to! Things like going for a walk with a friend or having an impromptu dance party at home with your family do count! Having an exercise buddy or friend also helps to maintain motivation if you’re feeling low. 

During the pandemic, we were all stuck at home and unable to go to gyms and parks to exercise. So at the time, I wrote about tips for exercising at home. While the pandemic is over, many patients still find themselves at home often - whether it’s due to a lack of energy to go out and about, or even just stuck inside during a snowstorm, so the tips are still relevant and helpful. You can find them here.  

Finding a Personal Trainer Experienced with Cancer

If you are at the point where you are considering joining a program or hiring a professional trainer, it can be scary to imagine finding someone who is experienced in working with cancer patients. As cancer survivors, we have specific needs when it comes to exercising and maintaining our health, that are different from people who have not dealt with cancer.

As both a certified personal trainer and a cancer survivor myself, I can help you create personalized exercise plans that suit your body’s needs specifically. I would encourage you to reach out to me today and we can discuss your needs!   


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