Step 5: Exercise
Much like your cancer treatment, exercise should focus on what you can do physically. Understand that cancer – type and stage – can affect your ability to exercise, as well as your fitness level. Some studies suggest that physically active cancer survivors have a lower risk of cancer recurrence and improved survival.
Now, we’re not talking Richard Simmons-like workouts where you’re sweatin’ to the oldies or heart-pounding stadium rock-n-roll. Low-intensity activities, like walking, will accomplish the goal. Talk to your doctor if you need a specialist or a physical therapist. These trained professionals will be able to offer safe exercises for you and will keep your cancer team in the loop regarding your progress.
A 20-minute workout each day – and two strength workouts each week – is the initial goal. Build from there; it will take time to regain your stamina, so do not get frustrated. During this time, listen to your body. If you have to divide your time – two 10-minute workouts – then do that.
In addition to muscle aches, you may feel some fatigue, which is normal. Do not give in to the desire to stop working out. Set up your workout schedule for a time during the day when you feel good and stay hydrated.
Keep in mind if you have side effects from the cancer treatment, these will diminish. You will be able to increase the time spent exercising and intensity. Light activities, such as a slow walk, will give way to more moderate exercises, like biking or a stationary bike.
Cancer isn’t fun – but your workouts can be. Set goals, both short- and long-term, and chart your progress. (Also, be sure to celebrate your successes!) If possible, work out with a family member or friend. Ultimately, exercise will help prevent your muscles from wasting, reduce side effects, and improve the quality of your life.