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  • Writer's pictureSimone Grove

5 benefits of exercise during cancer treatment and beyond


We all know that staying active is good for us – but what happens when we fall ill? Cancer in particular can affect all aspects of physical activity – from low energy levels, pain and mobility issues to weakness, lack of motivation and fatigue, there are various ways the condition can make it difficult to keep fit.

 

Paradoxically, although we tend to feel less like working out at this time, it’s even more important to stay as active as possible. Here are just five of the main benefits associated with maintaining some sort of physical activity during cancer treatment.

 

1/ Improve your mental health

 

One of the most wonderful benefits of exercise is the impact it has on our mental health. When we engage in aerobic exercise in particular our brains release more endorphins, also known as ‘happy hormones’, which can improve mood and help you adopt a more positive mindset and perspective on life. When we move our bodies, we also help it to process any ‘stuck’ emotions and energy which doesn’t serve us or make us feel good. For people living with cancer, enjoyment is really important when it comes to finding exercises that will really enrich your life and improve your health and wellbeing. Find things you truly love to do with added benefits of community or being in nature, like dancing, yoga or hiking. These activities can help you to stick to an exercise routine that benefits body and mind in many different ways. 

 

2/ Reduce fatigue

 

Fatigue is a very real struggle for people living with cancer and other long-term health conditions – and it’s more than just an intense and persistent feeling of tiredness that won’t go away. Fatigue can make basic everyday tasks such as getting up and dressed feel difficult and exhausting – so engaging in any sort of exercise sometimes feels impossible. But physical activity itself helps to fight fatigue – so when we slowly stop moving as much, we can easily get stuck in a vicious cycle of doing nothing which can be difficult to break. Practice pacing yourself and build up your activity levels bit by bit, taking as many breaks and rests as you need along the way.

 

3/ Improve quality of life now (and the future)

 

Maintaining some form of physical activity throughout your cancer journey (as much as is possible) doesn’t just help you to feel better now – it helps to improve quality of life after cancer treatment, too. Studies have shown that people who continue to stay active safely during their treatment tend to have better outcomes and overall health compared to those who don’t. This is usually due to benefits such as maintaining healthy muscle mass, improving circulation and keeping a more positive mindset.

 

4/ Prevent complications

 

Both conventional treatments for cancer and the general impact it has on the body can make complications more common. These can include chronic pain, anaemia and lymphoedema, a type of swelling which affects the lymph nodes. Staying active can help to prevent these secondary conditions from developing or ease their symptoms if you are already experiencing them.

 

5/ Increasing activity levels when living with cancer


you’re struggling to maintain your motivation levels when dealing with cancer, you’re not alone. It often takes so much mental and physical energy just to get up and deal with it every single day – and the physical strain of cancer and its treatments take their toll on the body.

 

Often when we hear the words ‘exercise’ or ‘physical activity’ we tend to think about the most intense types like running, dancing or lifting huge weights. But any type of exercise counts and helps with your recovery. This can include walking small distances at first and building up as you feel stronger, trying chair yoga at home or lifting cans of beans in the kitchen to help strengthen your arms. Start slow, and aim to build on your progress each day or each week.

 

For those living with long-term fatigue and pain, there may be some days where you can do more than others. Listen to your body and reduce or increase your activity levels in line with how you feel each day. If you’re struggling with ongoing pain or mobility issues, integrative therapies such as physiotherapy and guided Pilates can help you to improve energy levels and slowly increase your daily activities to include more exercise.

 

For sensitive, specialist support on your cancer journey, take a look at my cancer wellbeing membership here, or my cancer wellness packages here.




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