CrossFit South Rockland

Friday, October 14, 2011

Guest Article by Liz Davie

How to Fight Cancer Symptoms with Exercise

Fighting cancer is hard, and it is common for people undergoing treatment to feel helpless or afraid. But though it may seem counter-intuitive, exercise can be an excellent remedy for symptoms of cancer. 

An active body is a healthy body. While undergoing cancer treatment it is easy to lose muscle mass and physical dexterity, but exercise can halt or reverse these symptoms. Regularly working all the main muscles will help mitigate muscle wastage and preserve fitness even while the body is fighting off the effects of the cancer and its cure. Exercise has been proven to support immune system health, which is a major area of concern for cancer patients since infection is a danger while the body is already heavily taxed with handling the cancer-afflicted parts of the body.

In addition,
exercise is a well-known mood enhancer. It can be hard to get out of bed in the morning when the chemotherapy and radiation sap the body of strength and motivation. But the benefits of getting up and moving are manifold. Exercise floods the body with endorphins which promote feelings of well-being and resilience. They are also known to combat depression and anxiety. In addition, just winning the battle of getting out of bed and forcing one's self to exercise is good for the spirit, because it provides the mind with a daily example of how physical ailments can be beaten by a strong will.

The type of exercise done is important. It is not necessary to run marathons or train for a triathlon while beating back cancer. Just routine, regular exercise to strengthen muscle groups like the legs, arms, and core provide significant mental and physical benefits. The arms and upper back can be worked by simply standing up straight, holding the arms as far from the body as possible, and then bending at the elbows to touch (with the hands) first the shoulders, then the neck, and then straightening them out again before repeating the exercise. The core is efficiently worked by doing leg lifts or just by repeatedly squatting and then standing up straight.

The legs and indeed the cardiovascular system as a whole are well served by going on
brisk walks for twenty minutes a day. This alone will have positive physical and mental benefits, because not only will you be able to get out and get moving but also see some of the world around you. It is good for cancer patients to see that the world keeps going even while they're fighting the disease. It provides a constant reminder that there is life after cancer, and that life will go on normally once again once it has been defeated.

Finally, exercise with a friend. Not only is the human contact psychologically beneficial, but committing to exercise with a friend, even just for short walks, will provide additional motivation to get up and get moving during the day. There are also support groups cancer patients can use for encouragement. Most types of cancers have their own groups, even rare forms such as papillary mesothelioma.

Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She became particularly interested in ways cancer patients can cope with the side-effects of their treatment after her mother became an oncology nurse for lung cancer. 

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