Fitness · Health

Exercise and Cancer Survivors — A Natural Partnership

5104367911_892b6963e6_zPhoto by Chris Ford via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

As someone who is fortunate enough to work with clients who are cancer survivors, being able to help them regain their physical strength and well-being is a very rewarding experience. For my clients, and many others who are also survivors, exercise is a vital part of their recovery in more ways than one, both during and after treatment. Many doctors are beginning to actually prescribe exercise for their patients and they are finding that the quicker a person can begin exercising the better. According to the American Cancer Society and the CDC,  “Cancer survivors should get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity, along with at least two strength training sessions, each week.”
Unfortunately, many survivors are missing out on the benefits of exercise. Perhaps they don’t realize that even a little is better than nothing, and that it can help psychologically as well. For my clients, starting slowly, doing things that felt good, and just trying to remain active was our principal goal. Activity should of course be individualized to the patients condition and personal preferences. With my clients, using gentle yoga and pilates, working on stretching, and doing exercises on the floor was the best course for them. Every day is a success and that is what we focused on, not number of reps or how much time. Little by little, strength and stamina improved, muscle density returned, and stability and balance got better.

RELATED: Exercise in Silence, Hear More

For all cancer survivors, maintaining a healthy diet and weight are important and exercise helps in this regard as well. It has also been shown to help reduce joint pain that sometimes occurs from medications, which then improves adherence to taking medications regularly. For these reasons, some health insurance companies are starting to reimburse customers for exercise programs, gym memberships, and fitness conditioning instruction. For my clients, adopting a healthy lifestyle that included exercise and reducing stress, has helped them to feel empowered and improved their overall quality of life.  
For myself, seeing their amazing strength and courage is an inspiring experience and to be able to help them in their recovery is an honor. For another article on the power of exercise for cancer see this link.
Be well and stay active. Next week we’ll review home workout options!


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