Following the completion of cancer treatment, your oncology team is likely to suggest you begin some physical activity if they had not already started you on an exercise regimen during cancer treatment. The amount of exercise will be different for each person and will be based on the type of cancer treatments and surgeries you received, as well as side effects you may be experiencing.
Exercise is important for cancer survivors so that you can:
According to research published by the American Cancer Society, exercise can help some cancer survivors reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. An active lifestyle can also help reduce the risk of developing other health conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even other types of cancer. Whether you’re a recent cancer survivor or have been cancer-free for years, it’s never too late to start adding exercise into your daily routine for better health.
Anyone who is embarking on an exercise regimen for the first time or after a prolonged period of inactivity should talk to their doctor first. As a cancer survivor, make sure to ask your doctor questions such as:
Realizing the importance of nutrition and physical activity to improve cancer survivors’ long-term treatment outcomes and quality of life, the American Cancer Society convened a group of nutrition, physical activity, and survivorship experts to identify best practices regarding nutrition and physical activities after cancer treatment. A group of physicians published their findings in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Some notable findings regarding physical activity for cancer survivors include:
When you think of physical activity as fun, but also a necessary step in staying healthy and reducing the risk of cancer recurring, you’ll find it much easier to commit to an exercise plan. You’ll also be more enthusiastic about exercise if you enjoy it. Especially in your early days as a cancer survivor, any activity is helpful! Walking your dog or with a friend, light stretching or yoga, taking a bike ride, even dancing around the living room with your grandchildren counts as exercise. The American Cancer Society recommends that as a cancer survivor beginning a new exercise routine you start slow, choose activities you enjoy, and aim to eventually exercise for at least 150 minutes per week.
You absolutely can break up that time into manageable intervals. Instead of going to the gym for 30 minutes one day, exercising at home for three 10-minute stints is just as effective. It’s often more manageable to work in frequent, short exercise breaks than committing to one long session. Additionally, if your doctor has instructed you to do both strength-building exercises (like lifting hand weights) and cardiovascular exercises (like walking or jogging), you can alternate between the two types of exercise. Not only will this help your body recover between workouts, but it will also help you stay more interested in your exercise routine.
When you learn to embrace exercise as something that may not have been possible during cancer treatment but that you’ve been cleared to do as a cancer survivor, you’ll learn to appreciate more about life because you will feel better. Eventually, exercise can once again become a natural, enjoyable part of your daily routine!