By Elizabeth Jimenez, PVHMC Cancer Nurse Navigator
Exercise…the quintessential love-hate relationship. Oh how we could
all reap its health benefits without having to lift a finger, but we all
know the magic of exercise requires effort. Now what happens when you
throw a breast cancer diagnosis, or for that matter any other chronic
medical condition, in the mix? Well the love-hate relationship you once
had with exercise turns into a long distance relationship, which eventually
dissipates into a fond memory.
The reality is, however, that ties between yourself and exercise should
not be severed under the circumstances of a cancer diagnosis. In fact,
many studies have examined the impact of physical activity on recurrence
and long term survival of individuals with cancer. According to The American
Cancer Society, studies amongst individuals with breast, colorectal, prostate,
and ovarian cancer have theorized that physically active survivors have
a reduced risk of recurrence and better survival rates in relation to
inactive cancer survivors. Although more research must be conducted to
truly identify the impact of exercise on recurrence and survival outcomes,
we do know that exercise has been shown to improve the following:
- Cardiovascular fitness
- Muscle strength
- Body composition
So, why stop? You shouldn’t. All the mentioned benefits are essential
in healing your mind and body as you overcome a life-changing diagnosis.
I am not trying to tell you to go out and start a vigorous exercise routine
today. In fact, certain circumstances my affect your ability to exercise,
- Type and stage of cancer
- Treatment regimen
- Current fitness level
With that in mind, always consult your doctor before starting or resuming
any type of exercise. Also remember that there are many side effects one
may experience while undergoing cancer treatment. Don’t pressure
yourself to perform at max intensity when struggling with those side effects.
It is best to slowly increase exercise time and intensity at a rate your
body feels most comfortable with. I always tell my patients - you know
your body better than anyone, so listen to it.
By Joan Harper, PVHMC Lymphedema Specialist
Exercise is an integral part of a comprehensive program to treat cancer,
reduce the effects of cancer treatments and manage lymphedema. Exercise
positively affects the lymphatic system through muscle contraction and
deep breathing, decreases stress and controls pain. Three types of exercises
are recommended, flexibility, strengthening and aerobic conditioning.
The goal of flexibility exercise is to stretch soft tissue, minimizing
muscle tightness and the effects of scar tissue and regain normal joint
range of motion. The goal of strengthening exercises is to improve joint
function and increase bone density. The goal of aerobic conditioning improves
cardiovascular fitness and increases deep respiration. Methods of aerobic
exercise include walking, cycling and swimming.
Exercise should be initiated slowly, under the recommendation of your doctor
and supervision of a physical therapist or certified personal trainer.