In recent years, modern medical researchers have found many new and exciting benefits of exercise. One area of research has focused on the advantages of exercise for cancer patients. Studies have shown that engaging in regular exercise can assist with recovery from cancer by boosting the immune system, improving mood and increasing chances of staying in remission following treatment.
Not long ago, doctors believed that cancer patients should rest as much as possible while undergoing treatment, but many medical professionals now recommend regular exercise to cancer patients for its many benefits. Here is a look at some of the ways fitness helps patients fight cancer.
Better oxygenation of the blood is one of the biggest benefits of exercise for everyone, but oxygenation is especially valuable for cancer patients. Unlike other cells in the body, cancer actually thrives in low-oxygen conditions. Unfortunately for patients who receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment, radiation reduces levels of red blood cells, which are responsible for delivering oxygen to the body’s tissues. Aerobic and strength exercises both minimize this reduction of red blood cells by stimulating red blood cell production and enhancing oxygenation of tissues.
Reduced Nausea from Chemotherapy
Nausea is a major side effect of chemotherapy, and its implications are potentially very serious for cancer patients who need to be able to receive nutrition from food. Some patients suffering from nausea find themselves unable to tolerate food at all, leading to a reduction in immunity and lessened ability to withstand side effects of treatment. Fortunately, exercise drastically reduces nausea from treatment. In fact, one study found that after only a few minutes of aerobic exercise, breast cancer patients experienced total elimination of chemotherapy-related nausea for the rest of the day. Aerobic exercise is also known to fight weakness by enhancing circulation, further establishing exercise as essential for cancer patients to include in their treatment regimens.
Reduction of Cancer Symptoms
Exercise also helps reduce the severity of many cancer symptoms, such as digestive problems, poor sleep, weight loss and low mood. In the general population, exercise is well-known to improve these aspects of daily life and functioning, but the positive difference is especially profound for individuals fighting cancer. Better digestion can improve absorption of nutrients. Sleeping well is crucial for proper immune function. Finally, depression can cause immunity to plummet if it is not taken care of, but even mild exercise, such as walking for a short time at a moderate pace, bolsters mood dramatically.
Studies have shown that exercise can help keep cancer in remission as well as reduce common post-treatment health problems such as depression, fatigue, heart disease and osteoporosis. All patients should consult their doctors before starting new exercise programs. However, every able cancer fighter, from the patient with a recent mesothelioma diagnosis to the patient in remission from breast cancer, can clearly benefit from the numerous perks of regular exercise.