Exercise during cancer treatment

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Exercise during cancer treatment

Its been an interesting observation so far. For the vast majority (read overriding majority), the question whether one can exercise during cancer treatment doesn’t quite pop up as a question, till it is presented as a suggestion!


And why is it so?*

To begin with, a cancer diagnosis, naturally and instinctively, shifts one’s focus to primal concerns of surviving and managing – mentally, physically and emotionally. The effects of cancer, along with the coarse side effects of its treatments, present a complex web of contingencies to negotiate. All effort and energy gets transfixed on dealing with immediate challenges, especially fatigue and pain, rendering ‘exercise’ an ostensibly counter intuitive option to be considered. It would seem like an unnecessary, or sometimes, even impossible pursuit, in event of cancer. Understandably, one tends to operate more out of a reactive state than a proactive one.

Additionally, the medical approach to treatment and recovery has largely until now, not explored, or proposed strongly enough, the benefits of exercising, as an important ally in better coping, enhanced recovery, and better quality of life post cancer diagnosis. Plugging it into the treatment timeline has traditionally not been as common a recommendation. While corrective and restorative diets have still got some attention, exercise – especially in an on-going manner (during treatment and post) – often gets left out of the protocol.

A small shift is beginning to happen in some parts of the world. Research is increasingly demonstrating benefits of exercising at various stages of cancer and treatment. (See links below). Cancer, however, is not restricted to these corners of the globe alone. It’s rampant everywhere, and growing. Meaning – suffering, and those seeking relief, is growing. While treatment protocols are making constant strides, there is still scope to address the cancer journey in a more proactive and compassionate form, everywhere. All options that might help provide, or reclaim, greater degree of control over self (physical, mental and emotional) – including exercise – need to be tapped with greater focus, and proffered to the affected populace.

Prevention, treatment, rehab – all need to be more sensitive to quality of life as an index to be addressed more vigorously, continually and holistically.

Coming back to the question:


Can one exercise during cancer treatment?*

The image below helps provide a succint answer.

*No two cancer survivors or patients will have identical experiences of the disease and/or rehab programming. The most effective and safest way would be to offer individual exercise prescriptions, in conjunction with the oncologist and a team well conversant with cancer details, including treatment, and Cancer Exercise Rx (such as a Cancer Exercise Specialist).

Exploring all options and raising awareness is vital, if we want to truly consider qualitative rehab and recovery! Some of the leading cancer forums/sites are increasingly presenting cases in favor of using active exercising as a valid, restorative option.


Why make the additional effort?

Regular moderate exercise can have the following benefits for people with cancer:

Exercise plays an important dual role – it serves to mitigate negative effects, and enhances positive ones.


Note for people exercising during cancer:

Start an exercise program after consultation with your doctor. Exercise intensity may need to be lower than for people without cancer, but there is still a good case to engage in a structured program during the treatment and recovery process. Be mindful of how you feel. Report/ share any symptoms with your Cancer Exercise Specialist and other team members. Recognize that you may not always feel up to it, but setting short term and long term goals, and being regular will help achieve benefits. Don’t hesitate to reach out, seek support and don’t underestimate your achievements.


Suggested reading:


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