Exercising with Cancer – Exercise Provides a Greater Quality of Life

I’ve not ever published a guest blog but I’ve been contacted recently by David Haas of Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance who was keen to write an article about how exercise can help cancer patients. With the Virgin London marathon just around the corner and me running it for Macmillan Cancer Support  after fundraising for the last six months, it seemed a very fitting subject, so I agreed to let David write a guest post for my blog. Here’s what David has to say….

Exercise Provides a Greater Quality of Life

Exercise is important for individuals who are experiencing cancer at any stage: diagnosis, treatment or recovery. The type of exercise recommended may vary but overall exercise can help individuals with cancer have more energy, be physically healthier and feel better than those who do not partake. An exercise plan should be developed with the help of a physician so that it is deemed safe, but it is important for individuals going through cancer to try their hardest to stay physically active.

There are many types of exercise that can be helpful during cancer. If an individual is feeling tired and lousy because of treatments or medications it is recommended that light exercise be performed regularly. This can include taking a short walk around the neighborhood or hospital, or doing light stretching or yoga. These activities will help invigorate a tired patient but will not make them feel exhausted or increase their feelings of sickness.

Individuals who are experiencing troubles with their lymph nodes during a cancer prognosis are prompted to exercise to help reduce swelling. Light weight lifting, mild aerobic exercise or yoga are all helpful during this time. This should be performed under the recommendation of a physician to ensure that it is safe for the patient. People with cancer, such as mesothelioma, can feel better after doing some health-promoting exercises.

Yoga is an exercise that is good for people in all stages of cancer because it is a mind and body exercise. This means that it helps the body to grow stronger and fitter but it also helps relax the mind. Yoga has been known to bring spiritual awareness to people and help them gain a more positive attitude on life. If this is performed during cancer treatment or recovery there is a better chance that the patient will feel better and fight harder to cure themselves of the disease.

Having cancer can cause depression in many people. Exercise helps to elevate the feel-good chemicals in the body that naturally help diminish depression. Patients who exercise regularly do not report having as many problems with depression as others do who do not exercise. This is one more reason why adding a few minutes of exercise to a person’s daily routine can help them to recover from cancer more quickly.

Life after cancer requires that individuals exercise to help prevent future cancer from occurring. Exercise can help prevent the occurrence of many types of cancer including breast, colon, endometrial and many others. It is recommended that adults recovering from cancer exercise three to five days per week for at least one hour at a time. A healthy lifestyle that includes eating a diet rich in nutrients can also help the individual’s quality of life. Fighting cancer is a difficult battle and exercise can help people get a little closer to winning. There are no guarantees when it comes to cancer but individuals who exercise generally feel better than those who do not.

If you, a friend or a family member are going through cancer, why not speak to someone like David and have a chat about how exercise can help you and what you should be doing. You can contact David through his blog at The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.

If you would like to find out why David’s blog is so fitting, please feel free to read my story and why I’m running the London marathon for a cancer related charity at my just giving page.

Remember, exercise can help in all areas of life, whether you have an illness or you don’t. You are not alone; there are plenty of people across the world that you can talk too that will help you and support you along the way.

Thanks for reading David’s post.

Listening to your Body

Learning about exercise, fitness and what to do to reach your goals is a never-ending learning curve. Everyone has an opinion and there are many that are controversial. It can be quite confusing hearing lots of opinions and advice from different people and even when we know our stuff, we all still make mistakes. I’ve recently made a big mistake at which I should have known better and it’s important we learn from these mistakes. We can listen to as much advice as possible from people who know more than us, but the most important thing, is to listen to our bodies when it comes to how we feel when training. Sometimes we can get complacent after exercising regularly and that can be a dangerous place to be, as I found out recently. When we commit to exercise we all like to push it hard and see results, but sometimes that’s not the way to go. The rest and recovery is just as important and sometimes more important than the actual exercise. What none of us want is to burn out and end up injured!

I was recently running on my usual 10 mile route and I could feel my right calf was tight. I’d been training hard for a couple of weeks before hand and wanted to keep pushing myself. My body was trying to tell me that it was time to stop and recover but I didn’t listen. When I felt my calf tightening I should have cut my run short, gone home and rested for a few days to let my body recover, but I didn’t and thought I could just get through until the end. I took my body one step too far and after a few quick successive sharp pains I felt a ‘ping’ and the damage was done, I had pulled my calf. I have pushed my body to the limit so many times before that I got complacent about my fitness level and ignored the signs. We all have a limit, we just need to know when to stop!

When we exercise and continuously push our bodies to the limit, we actually tear tiny muscle fibres. These muscle fibres are so small and there are so many of them that it’s not noticeable, but over time they rebuild and cause scar tissue, what most know as knots in the muscle. If we don’t give our body time to repair and recover, these small tears can be far worse and that is when more serious injuries occur. Muscle pulls/strains are common because of many reasons but they can be prevented with a little common sense and just by listening to our bodies and having a rest when we feel we need one!

Here are some signs that might help you prevent an over usage injury………

  • Dehydration –  The body is made up of 70% water. If the body gets dehydrated, normal functions will suffer including muscle performance. Generally, if you feel thirsty or you have a dry mouth, the damage is already done, you are already dehydrated. If you feel this way, make sure you drink plenty of fluids and you feel ready to exercise before trying to push yourself. Don’t ignore it and try to exercise as dehydration can be very serious.
  • Tiredness –  When you are tired mentally or physically, the reaction times slow down and concentration levels drop. If you don’t concentrate on a run, bike ride or many other activities, or you just react slower than normal, it may be the difference between putting your foot in a pot hole or seeing it earlier, dodging it and avoiding an ankle injury. If you feel tired, rest and make sure you have recovered fully before exercising again.
  • Tightness –  If you are contemplating a weights or CV session but a certain muscle or area feels tight, it’s tight for a reason. Don’t push through it and hope it eases off, as it can be far worse like a muscle pull, such as the one I’ve experienced through doing exactly this! Be sensible, let the muscle recover and make sure it is fully warmed up, stretched and feeling ready to exercise before you exercise again.
  • Illness –  If you are recovering from an illness, make sure you have recovered fully before trying to exercise. Your body’s immune system is down and exercising at this point can increase the risk of injury or further illness. There are some minor illnesses like a basic headache that exercising can actually help with. It helps to dilate the blood vessels in the body so the blood moves more freely with less pressure in the head, hence easing a headache, but if the body has an infection or virus, bacteria can thrive when the body temperature is raised therefore prolonging the illness. I suggest you take the extra few days to recover and make sure you are on top form to be able to push yourself hard, when you get back to feeling 100% again.

The key to preventing injuries is to be smart. If you’re in any doubt and you just don’t feel quite right, don’t risk it. That doesn’t mean don’t exercise just because you can’t be bothered, but be sure you are fit and able enough to perform to a good intensity and get the best out of whatever exercise it is you have chosen.

So, next time you want to exercise, let your body speak to you AND make sure you listen! Enjoy your workout : )