I believe that none of us should be limited by our disease, our treatment, or our survival….
If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, know that amidst the fear and pain, you will find moments of incredible beauty and joy. You will find help when you need it most. And you will find strength you never imagined.
Cancer survivors face many challenges. Staying active and strong can be difficult, but there are tremendous benefits from exercise during all phases of cancer treatment.
We all know that exercise is good for us, right? Physical fitness is linked to a whole range of health benefits. On the other hand, inactivity is linked to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and increased risk of several cancers.
But for someone facing a cancer diagnosis - facing surgeries or long, exhausting treatments – why exercise? How important is exercise?
Benefits of Exercise
Numerous studies have now shown that exercise can produce significant improvement in quality of life issues like anxiety, depression, sleep, self-esteem, and the ever-present treatment-related fatigue.   Moderate exercise may even improve immune function.  Based on all available research, many in the cancer field now suggest that exercise can be a useful tool in managing the effects of cancer treatment.
Exercise and Cancer Risk
The link between exercise and reduced risk for many cancers is well established. The National Cancer Institute, in it’s 2004 Factsheet on Obesity and Cancer, estimates that physical inactivity and excess weight may account for 25-30% of colon, breast, endometrial, kidney and esophageal cancers. 
But there is also growing evidence that exercise can improve survival for people with cancer. Breast cancer, colon, and prostate cancer are some of the cancers which have been well studied as far as exercise is concerned. Studies have shown a strong link between exercise and a reduction of risk of recurrence and death from breast cancer. One study found moderate exercise, defined as 3-5 hours per week of moderate activity such as walking, reduced breast cancer death among survivors by as much as 50%.  Benefits in survival have also been found for colon  and prostate  cancers.
Exercise is Power
Exercise is also empowering. When facing any serious illness, there is so much that can seem out of one’s control. Exercise is an aspect of life that is still completely within your control. Taking control of something simple like whether you go out for a walk can help you feel strong and in control.
Staying alive takes work. It can feel exhausting sometimes, but it can also be exhilarating. Each doctor visit, each treatment, each walk, or each weight lifted is an active statement that you are fighting. As long as you are breathing, you are fighting. And if you're fighting, there is hope. The trick is to keep breathing.
Exercise is Fun
Fun. That’s one element that too often is lost in talk of health and fitness. We get bogged down in the seriousness of everything - especially when we’re facing a serious disease like cancer. It’s easy to forget that exercise can be fun.
Focus on fun activities that will get you moving more. Pick activities that you enjoy; you are much more likely to stick with it if you enjoy yourself. If exercise feels like nothing but a chore, you’re probably going to quickly look for ways to avoid it.
Remember when we were kids? Most of us ran around constantly, playing games – just moving. Instead of simply walking to the bus stop, we'd hop over cracks in the sidewalk, leap over bushes, or run backwards or sideways.
Instill just a hint of that sense of adventure and fun into your ideas of exercise. It will help to keep you motivated and add a touch of much needed fun into your life.
Exercise because you have cancer!
Need help with setting up an exercise plan? Please click here »
- ^ Courneya, Mackey, Bell, et al. Randomized Controlled Trial of Exercise Training in Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Survivors: Cardiopulmonary and Quality of Life Outcomes. Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 21, No 9 (May 1), 2003: pp 1660-1668.
- ^ Ohira, Schmitz, Ahmed, Yee. Effects of Weight Training on Quality of Life in Recent Breast Cancer Survivors, The Weight Training for Breast Cancer Survivors (WTBS) Study. Cancer, May 1, 2006: pp 2076-2083.
- ^ Nieman, D. Moderate Exercise Boosts The Immune System, Too Much Exercise Can Have the Opposite Effect. ACSM Health & Fitness Journal, vol. 1 no. 5 (Sept./ Oct. 1997): 14-18.
- ^ National Cancer Institute, "Obesity and Cancer: Questions and Answers", March 2004, p. 4, http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/obesity.
- ^ Holmes MD, Chen WY, Feskanich D, et al. Physical Activity and Survival After Breast Cancer Diagnosis. Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA, 2005, vol.293, no.20: pp.2470-2486.
- ^ Meyerhardt JA, Giovannucci, et al. Physical Activity and Male Colorectal Cancer Survival." Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009, Dec 14, vol. 169, no 22: pp.2124-7.
- ^ Kenfield, Stampfer, Giovannucci, Chan. Physical Activity and Survival After Prostate Cancer Diagnosis in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Journal of Clinical Oncology, JCO.2010.31.5226; published online Jan. 4, 2011.