The Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients and Survivors
October 10, 2022
By Tennisha Mitchell, OTR/L, CLT, Frye Regional Medical Center Outpatient Therapy Department
Research has shown that regular physical activity can make you feel happier, function better at work and/or school, and sleep better. Whether you do a little bit each day or save it for the weekends, regular physical activity benefits everyone of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Did you know that being physically active can also fight cancer?
Exercise has several biological effects, like regulating hormones, lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, improving immune system function, and so much more. Researchers have measured these biological effects and have found that higher levels of physical activity are linked to a lower risk of several cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute.
For adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 150 minutes a week (or 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of physical activity. It’s best to mix together both aerobic activities and muscle-strengthening activities.
If that number sounds extreme, don’t forget all of the physical activity that you might do without even thinking about it — walking with your pet, carrying heavy groceries, shoveling snow, taking the stairs, and doing chores around the house. While it’s great if you can incorporate more intentional exercises into your busy schedule, like weightlifting or jogging, any amount of physical activity has some health benefits.
Regular physical activity can also benefit those who have already faced a cancer diagnosis or are currently undergoing treatment. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, exercise can help manage chemotherapy side effects, reduce rates of depression by increasing endorphin production, and even make treatment more effective at destroying tumor cells.
For those with chronic health conditions or disabilities, including cancer survivors, physical therapy specialists can help you find ways to stay active and prevent injury — with activities that match your lifestyle.
For some, it can be intimidating to know where to start – especially if you feel limited by pain, illness, or an injury. This process can be simplified with the help of our occupational and physical therapists at Frye Regional Medical Center through an exercise program called “Strength for Life.” Strength for Life is an exercise group that can help people fighting cancer both during and after treatment.
Specially trained occupational therapists who understand the unique needs of people living with cancer guide two, one-hour exercise sessions each week and provide education and support to group members. Learn more by contacting one of our occupational therapists at the Frye Regional Outpatient Therapy Department at 828-315-3497.
Please note: No matter your age, health history, or physical abilities, it is recommended to consult a health care professional or physical activity specialist about the types and amounts of activity that are appropriate for you.
Tennisha Mitchell is an occupational therapist and certified lymphedema therapist in the Outpatient Therapy Department at Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory, NC