By Gabe Sanders PhD, NSCA-CSCS
Exercise is considered a safe and effective activity for almost any person at any age. Many people believe that exercise during advanced-stage cancer may not be beneficial for a patient; especially one undergoing chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses strong chemicals to attack the cells (both good and cancerous) of the body, which causes patients to often feel sick and extremely fatigued. A secondary effect of chemotherapy may also leave patients feeling depressed due to their lack of energy or the emotional weight of their cancer diagnosis. All of these feelings and emotions are completely understandable, but the question is, can exercise really help?
Can exercise really help?
“Yes!” A structured, light exercise/ physical activity regimen can be extremely beneficial for cancer patients. The benefit of exercise is more than just physiological, it can also significantly help improve quality of life and reduce symptoms and feelings of depression.
Recently, a study assessed the effect of a six-week exercise and relaxation intervention for advanced-stage cancer patients. The researchers assessed the cancer patient’s maximal strength, ability to perform aerobic “cardio” exercise, and quality of life. After six weeks of exercise and relaxation training, the patients significantly improved their strength, cardio, and “emotional well-being.” The most interesting finding of this study was the patients that improved the most were those that participated in a supervised/ structured group training session, as opposed to exercising at home alone.
Try exercise with a group of positive people
If you or someone you know is undergoing chemotherapy and want to try exercise, try to exercise with a group of positive people that are experiencing the same difficulties. This may be the best way to truly improve the way you feel. The physical ailments that result from chemotherapy can be painful and lead to depression; however, associating yourself with a group of positive people may help take your mind off of the chemotherapy treatments and give you something to look forward to. Some researchers suggest that the benefits of exercise are secondary to the psychological and social benefits you receive when you exercise with a group of people who are experiencing the same life changes.
*Remember before starting any exercise program or regimen, consult with your physician or healthcare provider...
Quist M, Rorth M, LangerS, Jones LW, Laursen JH, Papport H, Christensen KB, Adamsen L. Safety and feasibility of a combined exercise intervention for inoperable lung cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy: A pilot study. 2012; 75(2); 203-208.