Just this month I saw a report that was released saying the degree of frailty, more so than age, can predict how well patients will fare after a melanoma diagnosis. Specifically, patients with decreased core muscle density were more likely to see their cancer spread to distant parts of the body. I thought this was interesting and I do believe strongly that exercise helps the immune system. I have also seen some very fit people get melanoma and progress, but my point is that the healthier you are, the better you feel and that is important whether you have cancer or not. Mike’s mother is a two-time cancer survivor with Multiple Sclerosis. She is in a wheel chair, but she always manages to go swimming to get her exercise. Whenever I don’t feel like exercising, I think of her.. and I feel like a big wimp.
Before Mike was diagnosed with melanoma, he was not exercising very much at all. Now it has become part of his routine and he loves it. Recently he developed tennis elbow and had to skip lifting weights for a couple of weeks only to have his lower back go out on him right after. So for over a month he hasn’t been exercising as much as he used to and he really misses it. I can tell the difference not only with his muscle tone – when he doesn’t exercise he is grumpy, doesn’t sleep well, etc. Over the past couple of months, I have started doing strength training and yoga. I have also started a new fitness routine at a gym next to my work. It focuses on short bursts of really hard exercise like high reps of burpees and push ups…but it only takes 15-25 minutes. It is called Soul Blast – at the 3rd Door in Palo Alto). It doesn’t sound like much time to get a workout, but it works all of your muscles and I am so sore afterwards. I really love it and I can see a difference in muscle tone already. So even if you are short on time, you really can still reap the benefits of exercise without spending hours doing it.
I have wanted to write about the importance of exercise for cancer patients for a while. What prompted me to do so was David Haas. He is my first ever guest blogger. David is a cancer patient advocate who had a friend go through cancer and saw the toll it took on his short life. He has a passion for fitness and began researching and writing about the effects of fitness and health to help benefit cancer patients. I hope you will read his words below:
Physical Fitness For Cancer Survivors by David Haas
Modern cancer treatment is a proven method for fighting many types of cancer. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, laser treatments, stem cell transplants, and various targeted therapies can successfully fight some cancers.
Battling cancer and surviving treatment are major accomplishments for cancer patients. But for most survivors, the last treatment does not signal the end of their battle. Rather, it merely shifts the focus — from fighting their cancer to fighting its return.
Most people who make it through the rough journey of cancer symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment think about ways they can get and stay healthy. While activity levels generally decline during the cancer experience, after cancer most people look for ways to increase their energy and fitness level.
Exercise has many benefits for cancer patients and survivors. Research shows that exercise and healthy eating can prevent some types of cancer. It indicates that exercise can keep cancer from returning. It also suggests longer survival rates for those facing a cancer diagnosis.
According to a report from Dr. Matthew Hoffman for WebMD, women who exercise after breast cancer treatment live longer and have less risk of recurrence than women who do not exercise. Two clinical trials revealed the same results for colorectal cancer survivors.
If exercise is beneficial for people with these types of cancer, it is likely to help any cancer patient — from the women with breast cancer to someone with a rare and deadly disease like mesothelioma. People undergoing mesothelioma treatment cannot exercise at the same level as other cancer patients, but even gentle stretching is beneficial.
Physical activity has the same benefits for cancer patients and survivors as it does for other adults. Exercise makes people fitter, stronger, and thinner — all goals for healthy living. Studies show that exercise can reduce pain and fatigue, increase energy, boost self-confidence, and improve mood, outlook, and increase life expectancy. It can also lower the risks for heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.
Fitness levels vary for each cancer survivor, and they should discuss exercise with their doctor before starting a workout program. Once they get the go-ahead from their doctor, cancer patients should incorporate three types of exercise on their road to recovery and fitness.
Stretching and flexibility exercises are something anyone can do, and they help cancer survivors maintain mobility. Resistance training, such as isometric exercise and weight lifting, builds muscle. And aerobic exercise, like walking and swimming, burns calories and builds heart fitness. All three types of exercise are essential to the health and well being of cancer survivors.