Guest Blogger David Haas on Exercise and Cancer

I am fortunate to have David Haas guest blog this week with his post on the importance of fitness for individuals with cancer.  I hope to follow-up David’s post with my own on nutrition and cancer, so stay tuned!  David is an Awareness Program Advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance and you can read more about him and the Alliance by clicking this link: David Haas

Cancer touches so many people, whether you are personally fighting the disease, supporting a friend or family member as they go through treatment, raising funds to assist research efforts – or all three!  Whether you have cancer or not, staying fit and eating nourishing food is important for all of us (spoken like a true dietitian).  It’s even more important for those with cancer who need to keep up their strength to get through the challenges of treatment.  This is where David Haas’ article comes in.  Please remember that this post is not to be considered medical advice and you should consult your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.

Yoga and light strength training are good options for cancer survivors

The Effects of Fitness on Cancer Sufferers  

by David Haas

Physical activity has an innumerable amount of benefits for those battling cancer. Patients of cancer can and should include fitness as one of their treatment options. Exercise is effective, according to the National Cancer Institute, for providing patients with a better prognosis and improved quality of life. While the long-range studies have yet to be studied on the overall effects that exercise and fitness has on the cancer patient, it is clear that many short-term benefits can be found in simple exercises developed just for those suffering from cancer.

Some of the long-range problems that cancer patients deal with are a direct result of inactivity. Even such difficulties as depression and obesity can develop as these patients work their cancer into remission. As more oncologists learn about the restrictions which actually exist – a far cry from what was originally conceived – they are recommending exercise during treatment and post-treatment to help cancer patients.

Benefits of Exercise

The main reasons why the exercising helps is because of the effect it has on improving body image and body composition. These are two very serious issues that all cancer patients experience as a result of the treatments that they have to go through and the effect that inactivity can have on the body.

The body image issue is a simple one. If you have been inactive due to mesothelioma cancer, you may have gained some weight. Your appearance in the mirror can affect your sex drive and cause you to feel less ambitious. This is because your body image is directly linked to your feelings. If you are feeling depressed, it is more likely that you will find even more excuses to stay inactive rather than making a change. It is a vicious cycle that will even cause you to not want to leave the house for a while.

When it comes to body composition, it is important to remember that the treatments can have the effect of wasting muscle mass by killing cells. The type of cancer and its location will determine the kinds of problems that the individual will suffer. Some simple exercises targeting lean muscle mass development can help the individual to have the strength needed to do everyday activities like simply getting out of a chair without assistance.

Weight loss is the biggest problem when it comes to going through cancer treatments. The exercises developed for those suffering from cancer have been developed to strengthen and develop muscles that are more difficult to eliminate no matter what kind of treatment methods you are going through.  (Check-out other posts on this site related to weight loss: Goal Setting and Biggest Losers).

Exercises after Diagnosis

It is recommended to continue on a light exercise regimen after diagnosis. This will maintain the healthy heart and immune system that is imperative for treatment. Make sure that you are limiting cardiovascular exercise to 30 minutes a day and not engaging in any body building activities. These will make it more difficult for the treatment process.

Stick to cardiovascular exercises on machines to maintain a log of the exercise you are sticking to every day. If you are going to use free weights, make sure that you are using only enough weight to maintain muscular development and not enough to build.

Exercises during Treatment

Your energy will be depleted during treatment because of the effect that the chemicals are having on your body. Exercises should be lightened in order to make sure that you are not overdoing it. Have all exercises monitored by a friend or loved one so that if there is a problem you can get assistance right away.

Talk with your doctor about the kind of cancer treatment you are going through and the exercises you can use. Not all patients will be able to utilize cardiovascular exercise. All patients will at least be able to go for walks around the house and neighborhood.

Bicep curls help to build strength

Exercises during Recovery

After severe weight loss due to chemotherapy and body wasting, it is essential to start the process to rebuild muscle and increase endurance. Recovery treatment through exercise proves to be highly beneficial. Exercises should be focused on strength building including muscle-building exercises. Use free weights to target specific muscle groups and yoga to maintain form. Yoga is also a good exercise at this point to focus control and keep muscles limber.

While exercise is not a cure for cancer, it can greatly reduce the negative effects that cancer will have in your life. Develop a plan for exercise that considers the stage of cancer treatment that you are in. Follow the plan paying close attention to how you feel at every step of the way. While it is not a good idea to push yourself too far, it is important to do as much as possible to aid in your recovery. Add to your daily exercise if you do not feel that you are getting the full benefit out of each day. Small additions will help to improve energy and endurance.

Let us know what you think: Do you think exercise is important if you are going through cancer treatment, or are a cancer survivor?  If the comment box does not appear below, click on the title at the top of this page and scroll down to leave a comment.


2 Comments on “Guest Blogger David Haas on Exercise and Cancer”

  1. Thank you for addressing this important topic. I really look forward to reading your follow-up post on nutrition and cancer. Your post caught my attention because I recently posted a video interview with Dr. Lee Jones about his research at Duke University on Exercise and Cancer Survivors. You can see Part 1 here:

    I’m so glad to see this topic being brought to people’s attention. Nice job!
    All best,
    Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN

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