June 22, 2016 11:16 am

June 2016 Cancer Demystified- Importance of exercise

Caring for patients for over 30 years as a physician, I have always encouraged my patients to keep moving.

I discuss with them to continue their normal activities as they progress through their cancer treatments, as well as to add exercise to their daily routine.  Studies have shown that patients who exercise, or “move more,” do better in reducing their risk of the cancer progressing or even recurring.

The additional health benefits of exercise are numerous. First, exercise  can improve mood, which will in return help combat a secondary issue I see with cancer patients— depression.  Exercise can also reduce the risk of blood clots, increase bone density, improve heart function, and reduce anxiety.

Exercise during treatment should be enjoyable, and that doesn’t necessary mean going to a gym every day. Having spent my life progressing through every imaginable form of exercise, I always tell my patients to start off their routine by going on walks.  Other good exercises include water aerobics and Pilates.

Traditional or classic Pilates is my personal favorite.  Pilates has been shown to increase strength without adding bulk, improve flexibility, improve posture, eliminate back pain, increase energy level, and help prevent injury from other activities. Pilates is also very safe for seniors. For my patients, I recommend only attending Pilates instruction from a certified instructor with private lessons.

If my patient already has a good exercise plan in place, I just encourage them to listen to their body and adjust their plan as needed.

Finally, if the combination of cancer treatments, such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, has taxed the body too much, I suggest waiting to begin an exercise program until after the body has healed. However, I still believe in the “move more” philosophy. The sooner an exercise program can begin, the sooner the benefits will appear.

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