Fitness on the Go
While many people undergoing cancer treatment experience profound fatigue and may not feel up for exercising, research shows that maintaining a regular fitness routine during and after treatment actually improves stamina and overall quality of life. What’s more, say experts, it may reduce the risk of recurrence, especially in breast cancer patients.
Regardless of your level of physical activity prior to your cancer diagnosis and treatment, be careful not to over-exert yourself once you resume or start an exercise program. Instead, pace yourself accordingly.
And be sure to talk to your doctor about when to start an exercise program, what kind of exercises you should do and how much exercise is right for you.
Catch Your Breath
Breathing exercises can reduce anxiety, help you relax and improve flexibility. Here’s how.
Deep Breathing (increases the flow of oxygen throughout the body) Breathe in through the nose for the count of four; hold your breath for a count of seven; breathe out through pursed lips for a count of eight. Repeat four times.
Muscle Stretching (improves flexibility) Breathe in through the nose for the count of four; as you breathe in, raise your arms straight up overhead; as you breathe out through pursed lips, turn your palms out, extend arms straight out and slowly lower arms. Repeat four times.
Sniffles (to strengthen the diaphragm) Close your mouth and breathe in and out of your nose quickly for 15 to 30 seconds; work your way up to 60 seconds.
Take a Two-Minute Break
Three Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk
These exercises will not only help reduce wrist and shoulder strain from long days at your computer, they will also improve flexibility and reduce stress.
1. Shoulder Shrug: Place arms down alongside the body and breathe in through the nose. Raise shoulders to your ears and hold for five seconds; as you breathe out through the lips, push shoulders down and engage your back muscles; hold for five seconds. Repeat two times.
2. Shoulder and Upper Back Tone and Tighten: Breathe in, and as you breathe out, raise arms out to the sides, palms facing down. Force the arms back and up to create tension; hold for 10 seconds, then release arms and move them back to the sides. Repeat four times.
3. The Swim: Place both arms out in front, palms facing each other. Breathe in as you sweep your arms to the sides of the body parallel to the floor and push back. Breathe out as you bring your arms forward. Repeat five times.
Exercise for Every Treatment
Walking at a comfortable pace for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can help alleviate fatigue during chemotherapy treatment. Start slowly, just five minutes twice a day, and work your way up to 30 minutes at least five days a week. If you don’t have 30 minutes to spare in one chunk, break it up and do 10 minutes before you leave for the office, 10 minutes at lunch and 10 minutes before dinner.
Scarring due to underarm radiation during breast cancer treatment can limit mobility. Stretching exercises can improve flexibility and can also increase breathing capacity in lung cancer patients who have undergone radiation. Here are two quick exercises to try:
- For the arms: Hold both arms to the right and rotate in a circle eight times; then switch your arms to the left and rotate in a circle eight times.
- For the lungs: Breathe in through the nose for the count of four; as you breathe in, raise your arms straight overhead; as you breathe out, turn palms out, extend your arms out and then down to the sides of your body. Repeat four times.
Be sure to clear any exercise program with your doctor following a surgical procedure. This simple shoulder-roll exercise can improve arm flexibility following breast surgery and can be done sitting or standing:
Place feet hip-width apart, lift ribs and push shoulders down. Put arms straight down alongside the body with palms facing forward and fingers spread apart. Raise shoulders up toward the ears, then push back, squeezing shoulder blades together, and push shoulders down. Repeat five times.
Exercise Dos and Don’ts
DO talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.
DON’T over-exert yourself. Start by doing half the number of repetitions you did before your treatment; then increase slowly.
DO find a personal trainer with a medical background to help you launch a fitness program during or after cancer treatment.
DON’T include exercises to the abdominal area of the body, especially abdominal crunches, for at least two months after surgery. Check with your doctor to see when it’s okay to resume those activities.
DO know your body and pay attention to the signals it sends you. For example, start a walking, jogging, bicycling or weight-training program gradually and see how you feel 24 hours later. If you are overly fatigued or have muscle soreness, reduce your activities and then slowly increase your workout level.
DON’T get discouraged. Understand that your body will be different than it was before you started treatment. It can take a while until you’re able to manage the level of activity you were used to prior to your diagnosis. Try to be consistent with your new exercise program, but be patient with yourself.