Your secret weapon during cancer treatment? Exercise! Don't stop moving. Research confirms that exercising can help you not just survive but thrive during and after cancer.
The evidence keeps rolling in: Exercise can be one of your most important cancer treatments. For anyone dealing with a cancer diagnosis, that's great news. Starting or maintaining an exercise program can empower you to move out of a more passive "patient" role; it'll help improve not just your well-being but your attitude, too.
Sara Mansfield, M.S., a certified cancer exercise trainer at Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, says physical activity can help people before, during and after cancer treatment. "Loving family members may be urging a person with a cancer diagnosis to rest," she says, "but that can lead to a functional decline. Research tells us, in general, it's better to move more than less."
Mansfield recommends that any person with cancer first discuss an exercise program with his or her health care provider. Once you've got the green light, she says, start moving. If you've been sedentary for a while, start walking, which will help build muscle and stamina.
Exercise benefits Many research studies support the idea that exercising during cancer treatment helps you feel better. Some of the documented benefits include:
Physical activity also helps you manage your weight, which is an important cancer risk factor. In fact, research has linked being overweight or obese to an increased risk of many types of cancer, including endometrial, esophageal, liver, pancreas and breast cancers. There's also increasing evidence that being overweight may lead to a higher risk of cancer recurrence and even cancer-related death.
All those health benefits associated with exercise during cancer treatment sound good, right? So maybe it's time to get started.
Exercise guidelines The physical activity guidelines for people with cancer are similar to those recommended for everyone: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity every week. Not quite ready for that level of exercise? Follow Mansfield's recommendations:
"Your treatment may have left you feeling like you have a different body," says Mansfield, "but you can take charge after this life-changing event and really improve your quality of life."
Staying active can help you lower your risk of many types of cancer
Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese raises your risk for several cancers.
Get active. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes vigorous exercise each week. It’s best to do a combination of both, and you don’t have to do it all at one time. You can split up your activity into short intervals of as little as 10 minutes.
During moderate exercise, you should be able to talk, but not sing. Examples of moderate activities include walking, yoga and mowing the lawn.
During vigorous activity, you can say a few words, but you can’t hold a conversation. Examples of vigorous activity include running or jogging, fast bicycling and swimming.
Build strength. Perform muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week. Strength training helps you maintain a healthy weight by building muscle, which boosts your metabolism. Strength training, also called resistance training, should be done in addition to moderate and vigorous exercise.