3 Suitable Exercises for Life After Cancer

14th May 2020
Cancer is a disabling disease. The symptoms and aggressive treatments can leave you in poor physical shape. In this article, we'll give you three tips to ease yourself back into exercise.

Cancer is one of the main causes of disability and sick leave in the western world. The disease itself, together with its aggressive and complex treatments, means that after cancer, patients can be left in poorer physical health.

For those people who beat cancer, it’s often difficult to return to sport and physical exercise. In this article, we’ll give you some advice about how best to return to physical exercise after beating cancer, so that you can get back to an active lifestyle as quickly as possible.

Cancer: basic concepts

Cancer is both a simple and complex disease at the same time. All cells in the body have a biological cycle and should stop replicating at a certain point. Malignant or tumor cells are those that continue replicating and dividing uncontrollably, damaging the neighboring tissues.

Metaplasia is when a cell undergoes changes because of external factors. One example would be when bronchial cells change as a result of the damage caused by tobacco smoke. This cellular change can deactivate the genes which control the cell’s biological cycle. As a result, the cycle is broken and the cell starts replicating again.

Cancer symptoms

Since the damage is at the cell level, the symptoms will depend on the part of the body which is affected. Once the tumor has developed, it then could exert pressure on neighboring tissues and present more obvious symptoms.

Once cancer reaches a certain stage, either by metastasizing (spreading to other parts of the body), there are some symptoms that clearly indicate that something is wrong:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
A woman suffering from extreme fatigue.

As you can see, these are symptoms that will have a significant impact on your lifestyle. A lack of appetite will lead to weight loss and normally a loss of muscle mass. In combination with the disease, this loss of muscle will increase the feeling of tiredness.

Chemotherapy or surgery will further compound the situation and, in the end, patients who manage to beat the disease will have lost a lot of muscle, making it much harder to exercise.

Exercise after cancer: three great options

It’s important to point out that anyone suffering from cancer should try to keep themselves as active as possible. Even exercising lightly can increase your appetite, reduce weight loss, and stimulate your muscles.

However, this often isn’t possible. So, once on the road to recovery, the patient will need to focus on specific exercises. Thanks to modern medicine, a large number of cancers can be beaten and you should never lose hope or motivation to return to the sport you love.

1. Walking

If you’ve just beaten cancer, there’s no better way to resume exercise than taking progressively longer walks. This way, you’ll get your body moving, improve your cardiovascular system, and strengthen your muscles, bones, and joints. It’s a great low-impact way of preparing your body for future exercise.

2. Light strength exercises

If you previously used to practice strength exercises, or even if you’ve never done it before, starting a workout with light weights can help regain the functionality of your muscles and joints.

A man doing supervised weight lifting after cancer.

Some other good options include CrossFit, which you can do under supervision. This is just another way to strengthen your cardiovascular system.

3. Swimming

Swimming is by far the lowest impact sport you can do. This makes it a great choice for people recovering from bone tumors or intensive treatments that may have led to brittle bones.

Swimming is good for your cardiovascular system and uses almost all of your muscles, particularly your back. This means that it’s ideal for strengthening your bones and back without the risk of injury.

However, it’s very important to point out that not all exercises will be appropriate for all people. If you have any doubts at all, please consult your physician about the best way to get back to exercising safely.

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