Back in 2007 when I started my own cancer journey, I was told to rest as much as I could, and exercise wasn’t mentioned until I went home from my transplant. How things have changed! We now rightly talk of both prehab and rehab. To ensure that physically you will be in the best place, before and after your procedure. Personally I found that my treatment made me so weak, I lost any appetite for exercise that I may have had. But now there are constant reminders wherever you look. There are also wonderful specialists with specific knowledge of exercise for people with long-term conditions.
One such person is Beth, who I was recommended to. Working for herself, doing online and in person sessions for people with complex health. She is incredibly knowledgeable and patient. I have so many people looking for services like this that Beth and I collaborate frequently when helping people. As exercise is becoming a lot more popular I asked Beth if she could share some tips with us, which she has done below.
“My name is Beth and I started Bounce Back Exercise to create more opportunities for people with cancer as well as other long term health conditions to experience the benefits of exercise.”
The benefits of exercise for people with cancer
Exercise has been found to be beneficial for cancer patients pre, post and during treatment. In addition to helping cancer patients cope with their diagnosis, research has also suggested that exercise could play a key role in preventing the risk of cancer progression and cancer recurrence.
Some of the benefits of exercise for people with cancer:
- Help people prepare people for treatment
- Helps manage treatment related side effects including fatigue, lymphedema, muscle wasting, osteoporosis
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Improves quality of life and prevents functional decline
- Improves recovery rate from cancer treatment
- Reduces length of time in hospital
- Helps individuals maintain a healthy weight
- Improves sleep
- Improves bone health
- Reduces the rate of disease progression
Although a lot remains to be learnt about the mechanisms involved in how physical activity influences cancer, it is clear that exercise is a safe and effective way of managing cancer related symptoms and side effects.
Which exercise is best?
Here are my top 5 exercise recommendations for people with cancer
1. Snack on exercise
Research has suggested that multiple short bouts of exercise may be just as beneficial as doing long periods of exercise. Starting small can help people manage energy levels and fatigue during treatment. It can also help create good exercise intentions and can actually result in increased exercise uptake.
2. Choose functional resistance exercises
Functional resistance training focuses on developing strength for movement patterns that are used in everyday life. This includes practicing sit to stands from a chair.
3. Challenge your balance
Balance exercises improve your ability to control and stabilise your body. They are particularly important for people going through cancer treatments which can negatively impact your balance.
4. Exercise outdoors
Exercising outdoors can provide a huge mental health boost. Exposure to sunlight naturally enhances vitamin D production and increases serotonin (the feel-good hormone).
Stretching is a crucial part of both performance and the recovery process. It involves deliberately flexing or stretching a muscle in or order to improve the muscle’s elasticity and achieve comfortable muscle tone. This can help aid recovery and reduce muscle soreness by increasing blood flow to the muscles. The benefits cancer patients stand to gain from participating in an exercise programme can be huge, making clinical exercise also an incredibly rewarding specialism.
What does Bounce Back Exercise do?
Bounce Back Exercise is an inclusive online exercise community for people who have been diagnosed with long term medical conditions including cancer and neurological diseases. Our weekly exercise classes are designed to address common disease symptoms and side effects, help people experience the physical and psychological benefits of exercise and promote lifelong engagement in physical activity. Our one-to-one programmes address individual goals, barriers, symptoms, and side effects so more people can feel confident in their ability to cope with their diagnosis. I believe that with exercise, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, however there is something for everyone. Bounce Back Exercise aims to help people find the exercise they enjoy as it is the only one they are ever going to stick with.
For more information on exercise for people with cancer visit www.bouncebackexercise.com and Twitter @BoxallBeth. You can also find an incredible series of FREE videos, for those that would like to try some things on their own. One example is below.
Great to see exercise highlighted. However still too many people being diagnosed do not get the message about cancer and exercise – here’s my own experience and learning: https://yestolife.org.uk/exercise-is-a-dirty-word-for-some-but/
I agree exercise is so important and certainly in the past we have missed a trick here. Personally I’m starting to see it mentioned more and the message is slowly getting through.
Thanks so much for sharing your own experience, which will certainly help others.
Very best, Chris
Great to read your article Chris and to hear exercise is taking a key roll in the cancer journey. And thanks for posting the bounce back links… will give them a go! Would love to hear more about various empowering strategies… I was offered reflexology which was so utterly transforming… as was the Breast Cancer Haven for anyone going through breast cancer. I would highly recommend both!
With thanks and best wishes.
So pleased you found this article helpful, as did many others. We all know, advice around cancer has changed dramatically over the years. Also patients are fed up with living with debilitating side-effects when there are now many options to try, none of course recommended by the NHS. I also agree about reflexology too.
The Internet has opened the world up for us, and many people are looking at the more non traditional options. If you would like to know more about these options, the best people to talk to in my experience are the team at Yes For Life. I found there work very eye opening. https://yestolife.org.uk/
Please let me know how you get on. Very best as always, Chris
A worthy read, Chris! It is so good to learn about different exercises to manage cancer. Did you know that it is the second-leading cause of death globally? But proper care during treatment keeps you from feeling weak. The biomedical research community is working hard to use pigs for quick detection insights. It can go a long way to cure cancer in an early stage and ensure the best possible outcome.
Thanks so much for your kind words, Stephanie. We’re learning so much about cancer daily, yet it is such a big killer. We still have a long way to go!
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Physical exercise is one of the most important things you can do to fight cancer in several ways. Just a short walk can be tiring but at the same time be a huge mental and physical win. Exercise plays a huge role in our well-being with or without cancer. Exercise helps with all types of chronic health issues. Exercise does not have to mean jumping off your couch and running a marathon. Taking small manageable steps will help you get to where you want to be. Just starting to exercise can stave off cancer and other health issues, and get you on to building a healthy lifestyle.