Being diagnosed with cancer is one of the most difficult experiences for a person and their families. While medical science has made significant advances, the criticality of the illness along with a sense of intense fear make it difficult for a patient to stay brave. On top of that, the treatment itself leaves you physically and emotionally drained. Experts suggest a holistic approach – apart from medication, some form of physical activity and meditation are advised, depending on a person’s condition. But there are challenges here too, “Cancer treatment takes a huge toll on you physically and emotionally. The ability to move, let alone exercise, becomes difficult and you’re left wondering whether physical exercise at this time is advisable. The answer, in many cases, is a resounding yes. However, the type of exercise you do is important, considering your specific condition and following some essential guidelines,” shares Samara Mahindra, CEO and Founder, Carer – a personalised digital onco-health platform that provides cancer patients with customised nutrition and integrative programmes.
Exercising During Cancer Treatment: Dos And Don’ts
Samara points out that research has shown that appropriate physical activity during cancer treatment can offer numerous benefits. “It can help improve your emotional state, reduce fatigue, boost energy levels, enhance overall quality of life, and substantially reduce treatment side effects. However, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare team before starting any exercise regimen and being guided by a trained skilled physical therapist is essential,” she adds.
When considering exercise during cancer treatment, here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind, as suggested by Samara:
1. Consult your healthcare team: Always get clearance from your oncologist or healthcare provider before starting any exercise programme.
2. Start slowly: If you’re new to exercise or haven’t been active for a while, begin with low-intensity activities like walking and yoga. Gradually increase the intensity and duration as your strength and stamina improve.
3. Hire a professional to train with: Always opt for a trained exercise trainer to guide you. “This can be a Yoga Therapist or Physiotherapist, however, we always recommend yoga for cancer as it has proven to have multiple benefits for the body and mind,” says Samara.
4. Listen to your body: Understanding your case and your current physical discomforts is key. Pay close attention to how your body responds to exercise and if you experience pain, dizziness, or severe fatigue, stop immediately and consult your healthcare team.
5. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, a common concern during cancer treatment.
1. High-impact training: Your body is already in distress due to the cancer and cancer treatment side effects. So it’s best not to put excessive strain on your body, such as heavy weightlifting or vigorous cardio at this time.
2. Skipping rest days: Give your body time to recover between exercise sessions. Overexertion can be counterproductive.
Kinds Of Exercises Suitable During Cancer Treatment
Samara lists the following types of exercises that can be suitable during cancer treatment:
1. Yoga: Restorative yoga therapy can be wonderful for recovery from pain and fatigue. Yoga is also extremely effective for digestive issues, hormonal imbalances and sleep.
2. Light exercises: Activities like walking and light cycling can help improve cardiovascular fitness and combat fatigue.
3. Strength training: Gentle resistance exercises can help maintain muscle mass and strength.
4. Physiotherapy: Physical therapy for physical constraints such as restriction in movement, imbalance, post-surgery rehabilitation.
Working Out With Cancer: Things to Keep in Mind
1. Personalisation: What works for one cancer patient may not be suitable for another. Your exercise plan should be tailored to your unique needs and abilities.
2. Consistency: Regular, consistent exercise is more beneficial than sporadic, intense workouts. Aim for a manageable routine you can stick to.
“In conclusion, movement and exercise during cancer treatment are encouraged by all medical professionals. A professional can guide and tailor your exercise regimen based on your condition and if you’re new to exercise, it’s essential to start slow and focus on gentle, low-impact activities that promote overall well-being,” says Samara.