Cancer is often associated with a sedentary lifestyle and absolute rest. However, the practice of exercise adapted to each patient is key to promoting their health and progress.
Regular physical exercise is one of the keys for a healthy lifestyle at all stages of life. Sport is an excellent ally for maintaining good health, avoiding illness and improving our physical and mental state.
Contrary to popular belief, when a person develops a serious illness such as cancer, this does not necessarily mean that he or she has to give up sport. Actually, physical exercise can be an excellent therapeutic tool during the disease process. Exercising in a way that is adapted to the patient’s physical condition can strengthen the body and prepare it to cope with the side effects of treatments, reducing fatigue and weakness.
Characteristics of physical exercise in oncology patients
Although many cancer patients hold the belief that rest is the best strategy for dealing with the unwanted effects of treatment, nothing could be further from the truth. While rest is, of course, necessary, excessive rest can be counterproductive. A total sedentary lifestyle in patients promotes muscle weakness and fatigue, reducing energy, self-esteem and motivation. On the other hand, the performance of exercise in a manner adapted to each case can provide innumerable benefits, such as increased muscle tone, improved rest or increased appetite.
In general terms, exercise in cancer patients should always be planned on an individualized basis, so that it is adapted to the physical condition of each person. Ideally, sport should be a pleasant experience and not a time of suffering. Therefore, it is recommended that this is practiced with loved ones, if possible, outdoors. Exercise in these moments should not pursue impossible goals, since the objective is simply to create a space of satisfactory relief for the person. For this reason, one can opt for activities that have a certain recreational component, such as dancing or cycling.
Benefits of physical exercise in cancer patients
Physical exercise in cancer patients can provide three main benefits.
1. Improved cardiovascular capacity
Sport can help patients counteract the effects that chemotherapy and radiotherapy have on cardiovascular capacity, since these treatments reduce it. Exercise can help to restore adequate levels and thus contribute to the patient’s survival.
2. Promote a correct body composition
Cancer treatments can reduce muscle mass while increasing the amount of fat in the body. In this sense, sport is a key ally to maintain a proper body composition, as this will reduce the likelihood of relapse.
3. Recover previous strength levels
Cancer treatments are hard and force patients to reduce their activity, which implies a decrease in strength and coordination. The practice of adapted exercise during the illness can be of great help to progressively recover adequate strength levels.