Exercise and Cancer: Forward is Forward

One of the very first blog posts I wrote was about exercise. Basically I said it was like medicine and I have not changed that view much.  Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood but it’s also known to help improve self-esteem and cognitive function.  You will not find a single healthcare institution that doesn’t recommend exercise in any shape of form.

All cancer patients should attempt to keep active and this is even more important if you are being treated for long-term cancer. Why? Because keeping active will not only help your physical condition but it will also help you cope mentally. There are numerous pieces of research which confirm cancer patients are at risk of succumbing to depression and anxiety in addition to issues with their physical condition.

There’s even emerging evidence that physical activity can be useful before surgery increasing the chance of issues and less recovery time.  It’s known as Prehab and is in clinical trials in UK.  There’s plenty documentation covering this topic in the US and beyond.

In my post “Exercise is Medicine“, I discussed how it had benefited me when I was in a bit of a rut.  I have not looked back since.  The positivity you see in some of my blog posts comes partly from the fact that I did something I didn’t think I would ever be able to do again. Moreover, it refocused me on what was really important and it helped me physically and mentally. Read about my Hadrian’s Wall trek in 2014 – click here.

Now ….. I did get some feedback from various people claiming they are not able to do any exercise because of their condition. I totally understand that and I also understand some people will have physical disabilities that prevent them being as mobile as they would like.  However, I’ve always emphasised that “exercise” does not mean you need to run a marathon or climb Mount Kilimanjaro; or that you need to do something difficult every single day. If you can actually do that, great!  Exercise can also mean simple things such as gardening, walking to the mall or a block or two, lifting some weights (cartons of milk will suffice), do a couple of press-ups, swim, anything to get your arms and/or legs moving. You can start small and then build up to whatever is comfortable and beyond if you then feel sufficiently challenged.  The most important thing is to do something and you should feel better after you’ve done it.

Here’s some professional advice from the American Cancer Society:

“In the past, people being treated for a chronic illness (an illness a person may live with for a long time, like cancer or diabetes) were often told by their doctor to rest and reduce their physical activity. This is good advice if movement causes pain, rapid heart rate, or shortness of breath. But newer research has shown that exercise is not only safe and possible during cancer treatment, but it can improve how well you function physically and your quality of life. Too much rest can lead to loss of body function, muscle weakness, and reduced range of motion. So today, many cancer care teams are urging their patients to be as physically active as possible during cancer treatment. Many people are learning about the advantages of being physically active after treatment, too”.

And some more from UK cancer group Macmillan Cancer Support:

“Macmillan believes physical activity is an underrated ‘wonder drug’ and that everyone living with or supporting someone with cancer, and other long-term conditions, should be aware of its benefits. Leading a physically active lifestyle during and after cancer is linked to improvements in many of the adverse effects of cancer and its treatments”.

An active lifestyle helps overcome fatigue, anxiety and depression, while protecting the heart, lungs and bones. In some cases, being physically active has been shown to slow disease progression, improve survival and reduce the chance of recurrence

For Cancer patients, it’s not just about how fast, how high, how heavy, how much…………….. it’s about DIRECTION. Forward is Forward.

Listen to my videoCLICK HERE

WARNING: For those concerned about the effects of exercise on their condition, please consult your GP/PCP for advice.

You may also benefit from reading:

The 5 E’s of Carcinoid Syndrome – click here

The Other 5 E’s by Ronny Allan – click here

Some of my very early posts covered my Hadrian’s Wall walk (in fact it was the whole purpose of setting up the blog).

Day 1 – Newcastle
Day 2 – The wall is starting to show
Day 3 – The hilly bits (it was wet!)
Day 4 – More hills and more rain!
Day 5 – Downwards to Carlisle
Day 6 – Up to the Solway Firth – Scotland in view

Thanks for reading


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6 thoughts on “Exercise and Cancer: Forward is Forward

  • I’m not a cancer patient, but I was diagnosed with gouty arthritis. Being active really gave me a big help. If I did not do any exercise, I wouldn’t have recovered from this.

  • I’ve never done a triathlon, but I biked 6 km with my grandsons this afternoon and it felt great! Regular exercise was a big part of my life before cancer and that hasn’t changed. I’m absolutely convinced that being in good physical condition at the time of diagnosis and keeping it up since has helped me immeasurably, both mentally and physically.

  • Jane Cartwright

    Just read your reply Cheryl, I’ve just been diagnosed and waiting for a treatment plan. I also triathlons but give you my hat for doing ironman. This is now on my bucket list to achieve! Jane

  • Cheryl Turpin

    Hi Ronny….I am 2 years NED post surgery and still rocking Ionman Triathlons albeit somewhat slower. It is my firm belief that cancer hates exercise. Exercise helps alleviate the stress and anxiety associated with the uncertainty of our disease!

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