A cancer diagnosis doesn’t dictate the end of exercise and activity. The June issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource covers how exercise can help people with cancer, during and after treatment.
Numerous studies have shown that regular physical activity and exercise help control cancer side effects, help maintain muscle tone and stamina, reduce stress, improve overall health and possibly improve survival.
Exercise doesn’t mean running marathons. Moderate amounts of walking, biking, dancing or gardening can have a substantial positive effect. These types of aerobic exercise make the heart stronger and trigger the release of the body’s natural painkillers called endorphins. Exercise can improve sleep and appetite as well as help ward off depression.
A patient’s exercise goals may vary over time. For patients receiving cancer treatments, the goal of exercise may be to preserve and perhaps improve physical health. Once treatment is completed, the goal may be to adopt a healthier lifestyle, including daily exercise. For patients with recurring cancer, exercise can help maintain mobility and independence and provide relief from stress and pain.
So far, there’s no evidence that exercise helps patients live longer after cancer treatment. However, a few studies have shown a possible link between exercise and longer survival times. And reduced physical activity can contribute to an overall decline in physical function, which can worsen cancer side effects and make recovery more difficult.
Cancer patients should check with their doctor to make sure it’s safe to exercise. Some hospitals and clinics offer exercise programs tailored to patients with cancer.