I get a lot of questions around the safety of exercise during cancer treatment. I understand that treatment can have many negative side effects that make it difficult for one to be active during this tough time, but light exercise offers many benefits such as reducing fatigue, reducing stress, improving self-esteem, stimulating appetite, helping one sleep, and helping one regain strength.
Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions around exercising during cancer treatment:
Is it safe to exercise during cancer treatment?
The American College of Sports Medicine recently determined that exercising before, during and after cancer treatment is safe. They report that the exercise guidelines for persons with cancer are (in most cases) no different than those who have no cancer diagnosis.
What kind of exercise should I do?
Aerobic exercise (AE) if often recommended for many of the brain and body side effects of cancer treatments. Aerobic exercise means that when you exercise the purpose is to increase your Heart Rate a little bit (mild intensity of from 30%-39% of your maximum where you don’t notice much increase in breathing and the main goal is to get moving) or a bit more into the moderate intensity range (from 40%-59% of your maximum where you can talk while working out but your breathing increases).
Should I lift weights?
Lifting weights is often called Resistance Exercise (RE). RE is often added to Aerobic Exercise over time to help you maintain your muscle strength and body composition. With certain types of surgeries, you will need to be careful with RE until all is healed.
What types of exercise do I do to increase my Heart Rate?
It’s best that you work-out at home during and after cancer treatment to avoid any infections associated with large gyms and hygiene issues. You can walk in your home, use a few stairs, or walk outside. A home stationary bike or even a treadmill is often helpful as you become more active.
What is Prescriptive Exercise?
Prescriptive Exercise (PE) is a specific exercise program designed for you based on your condition, stage in cancer treatment and recovery. Your coach designs the program and then monitors and changes it based on your progress. Just like a medication, PE is adjusted for the intensity, time of that intensity and duration of the workout based on your response to the treatment.
Do I need a Fitbit or Apple Watch?
It’s not necessary to have a heart rate monitor or one of the many wrist bands that keeps track of your Heart Rate when you start exercising.
What if I feel nausea before or during exercise? And, how long should I exercise for?
It’s important that you adjust your workout to how you feel. If you feel too fatigued and sick to exercise, you should stop. Each day will be a different challenge but I recommend starting with a goal of 5 minutes of consistent exercise. If you can – do 5 minutes in the morning, 5 minutes in the afternoon and then 5 minutes just before dinner to achieve 15 minutes of total activity.
Do I need an exercise partner?
This is a personal preference but in most cases, we don’t recommend that you have an exercise partner. Your level of exercise and the way you are feeling will fluctuate daily. You don’t want to have to be concerned about cutting a workout short, or changing your routine based on your partner. At ExerciseMD you can start an exercise “group” where you can invite others to join you virtually to talk about your journey and to encourage each other. This is an excellent way to motivate you to achieve your activity goals.
Do you recommend a Health Coach?
It can be challenging to continue the program when you are tired, sick or fatigued. Humans are not programmed to exercise. Thousands of years ago we would exercise to find food or escape danger but often when we had food, we would conserve our energy to survive. We would eat as much as we could when food was available, than rest to conserve that energy to be used only when needed. Back then, people weren’t jogging for fun or lifting weights for better health. Since it can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise, people often hire trainers and coaches to stay motivated.
With ExerciseMD,your coach will monitor your progress and reach out to you twice a month to communicate through email, text or even a phone call. Your coach will help you achieve your goals and use exercise to fight cancer. Your coach will help you stay motivated, do the right program and make exercise a habit for the rest of your life.
Do I keep exercising after my treatment is over and I’m cancer free?
Yes, you should continue exercise after your treatment is over and you are cancer free. We know that if you continue with your Prescriptive Exercise program, you will increase the chances that the cancer will never return. Over months and years your PE program will be adjusted by your coach in response to your feedback and the way your body and mind respond. Soon it will feel like brushing your teeth a daily activity that you know is closely linked to your ongoing health and longevity.