The Benefits of Exercising During Cancer Therapy

From diagnosis to treatment to recovery, the big C puts the body under extreme stress. Psychological, mental, emotional and physical – you name it, cancer will definitely test it. Treatment is also a double edged sword as it kills both healthy and cancerous cells. This requires the body to work in overtime in order to compensate. As a result, patients usually feel tired, depressed and unable to eat well most of the time.  All of the above will make anyone think that exercising during cancer therapy is indeed a crazy idea.

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Regular exercise is recommended for healthy individuals for a number of reasons. It may be to reduce the risk for developing diseases, fight stress or promote a better way of life. For cancer patients, exercise can also be utilized in the same way – with a little tweaking to accommodate the extent of the disease and individual physical ability. Exercising also helps in the effectiveness of the treatment and decreases the chance of reoccurrence.

Studies have shown that patients who engaged in physical activity at least three times a week during treatment are also able to enjoy the physical and psychological benefits of exercise such as:

  • Able to endure treatment side effects better
  • Less likely to develop depression
  • Able to better fight off infection during treatment
  • Improved vitality and strength

Most healthcare professionals recommend a mix of aerobic, meditation and weight training. A holistic approach has a better chance in lessening cancer fatigue by strengthening the cardiovascular, immune and skeletal system. Healthy or ill, exercise has been proven to improve self-esteem and well-being especially since depression is a pertinent issue in cancer.


Consulting your doctor and a physical fitness expert is the first step in determining how much exercise you can do. Ask these experts if you can still continue your existing exercise regimen or which you can start. Here are a few reminders:

  • Red blood cell and white blood cell counts may fluctuate during treatment. A low RBC count translates into your body’s decreased ability to transport oxygen around the body and can affect your ability to exercise. A low WBC count means that you may have trouble fighting off infection. So before you do anything, make sure you get an all clear from your MDs.
  • Aside from fatigue, cancer patients also experience little to no appetite. This is a side effect of treatment and may result to nutritional deficiencies. As you know, exercise burns calories and having little to burn may cause more problems than solutions. You can consult your MD or a dietician to help you get the required daily allowances for calories and nutrients.

Exercise is a great ally in cancer therapy. The American Cancer Society has some pretty detailed information if you want to know about more!


Image: BBC News; SrXaWordonHealth

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