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This Guest article is from David Haas at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Can exercise really make a difference for cancer patients? The latest research indicates that it can have a dramatic impact. Exercise offers health benefits for everyone, and cancer patients enjoy the same benefits as the population at large.

For cancer patients, exercise counters the negative effects of inactivity during their illness. It boosts their energy levels and helps their bodies resist fatigue, a common side effect of cancer treatment. In addition to the many (and well-documented) physical benefits, exercise improves emotional health and encourages a patient’s outlook.

The American Cancer Society promotes exercise during and after treatment, but it encourages patients to discuss their plans with their doctors before staring a fitness program. Upon doctor approval, cancer patients are good to go!

Warm-up Exercises

Warm-up movements prepare the body for exercise. Shoulder rolls, neck rotations, and deep breathing are good ways to warm up for an exercise session. A short, leisurely walk also warms up the muscles.

Cardiovascular Fitness

Most health institutes and organizations, including the American Cancer Society, advise patients to get 20 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on three to five days a week. Also known as aerobic exercise, cardiovascular exercise is any activity that gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing. Jogging, bicycling and swimming are three good examples.

Some patients must avoid exercise that causes breathing difficulty or stresses the heart. Patients going through mesothelioma treatments are one example. Meanwhile, most cancer patients can (and should) engage in regular aerobic activity.

Strength Training

Strength training is an excellent complement to aerobic exercise. It helps build muscle, bone and joint strength and improves mobility, and it can combat the negative effects of chemotherapy and other treatments.

Strength training in a patient’s affected area is often a controversial issue. For example, weight lifting is not advised for breast cancer patients following breast surgery. Otherwise, light weight training, isometric exercise, and resistance bands are generally safe for most patients.

Flexibility Exercises

Stretching exercises are important, too, and most cancer patients can perform slow, gentle stretches. Many people do flexibility exercises during the warm-up phase of their workouts. Proper stretches warm the muscles and prepare them for more intense exercise. Flexibility movements also help stretch scar tissue and decrease muscle tightness.

Maximizing the Benefits

Cancer patients should always discuss their exercise plans with their doctors before starting a workout program. Doctors, physical therapists, and fitness professionals can work with patients to create a custom-designed program.

The best exercise plans for cancer patients take numerous factors into account: the patient’s cancer type, stage and treatment as well as their health history, fitness level, and prior activity. This enables patients to minimize problems and maximize the benefits of exercise.

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