by Carol Michaels, MBA, ACE, ACSM
The American Cancer Society recommends that cancer survivors get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity, physical activity each week, along with fitting in at least two strength-training sessions.
The Benefits of Exercise
Starting an exercise program can be both a physical and a mental challenge. To get motivated, it may help to think about the many benefits regular exercise can provide.
◆ Lower risk of recurrence Research suggests that regular physical activity is linked to an increased life expectancy and a decrease in cancer recurrence.
◆ Fewer side effects The right exercise program can help reduce the side effects of surgery and other treatments. For during treatment, keeping up with an exercise routine can help cancer survivors maintain their ideal body weight and lose body fat.
Be patient. Returning to your pre-cancer fitness level will take time and should not be rushed.
◆ Boosted self-confidence Many cancer survivors attest that exercise helps them clear their mind and find inner strength. Working out and improving your health can also boost your confidence. What’s more, exercise can improve your quality of life and give you the strength and energy you need to take part in the activities you enjoy.
Creating Your New Fitness Routine
Before beginning a new exercise program, you should first make sure to receive medical clearance from your doctor. Next, I recommend that cancer survivors work with a cancer exercise specialist or a physical therapist with experience working with cancer survivors to create a personalized exercise program that takes into consideration your treatment plan, side effects, exercise limitations, and fitness level. Your doctor may be able to suggest someone in your area.
Your exercise routine should include aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching, and posture and balance exercises. If you were active before cancer, it is imperative that you slowly work back up to your previous level of activity, especially if you underwent surgery. Be patient. Returning to your pre-cancer fitness level will take time and should not be rushed.
For many cancer survivors, just getting started can be the biggest hurdle. However, once you start to exercise and begin having less pain and more energy, this will motivate you to keep going. Don’t worry too much about what kinds of exercise you should be doing. The goal is to stay healthy, have fun, be safe, and enjoy the road to recovery.
Carol Michaels is the founder of Recovery Fitness, a cancer exercise program developed to improve recovery from cancer treatments. She is also an exercise specialist, health and wellness presenter, consultant, and the author of Exercises for Cancer Survivors. You can learn more about Carol at CarolMichaelsFitness.com, connect with her on Facebook at Facebook.com/CarolMichaelsFitness, or work out with Carol through her YouTube fitness channel, YouTube.com/CarolJMichaels.
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2020.