We can't stress enough the importance of exercise. While it may seem like a daunting task during cancer treatments, there are many things you can do before, during, and after to ease in effort, recovery, and strength.
Many hospitals / treatment centers offer resources such as Physical Therapy & Occupational Therapy that can be utilized even in the comfort of your own home. These are amazing resources available to you but often may not be arranged by your doctor without asking first. Find more details and resources below.
Benefits of Exercise During & After Treatment.
We all know that exercise is important to our health. But how and why exactly is exercise particularly important both during & after cancer treatments (such as chemotherapy, radiation, surgery)?
Turns out, multiple studies have shown that regular physical activity is linked to increased life expectancy after a diagnosis of cancer, in many cases by decreasing the risk of cancer recurrence, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
To understand the mental and physical benefits of exercise we include a good summary from Memorial Sloan Kettering's On Cancer news page.
The Role & Importance of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy.
We cannot stress enough how important and vital physical therapy and occupational therapy can be during your treatments - both before and after. Physical therapy and occupational therapy may be offered at your medical institution / center but also can be set up to visit & work with the patient in the home through home health care. Details on how to set up at home are below.
Physical therapy helps remediate impairments and promotes mobility, function, and quality of life through examination, diagnosis, and physical intervention. Physical therapy can help strengthen the body & mind prior to, during, and after cancer treatments.
Many cancer treatments can cause severe side effects - such as weight loss, nausea, and loss of appetite. Therefore, building strength prior to treatments and maintaining strength during treatments can help mitigate side effects and help the body heal.
For an overview of the benefits of physical therapy and a list of problems related to cancer physical therapy can help treat, we turn to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance's overview.
What is occupational therapy? OT is the use of assessment and treatment to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of people with a physical, mental, or cognitive disorder.
Translation: occupational therapists can help you set up your house / apartment in a manner that eases your daily activities but also makes them safe. For instance, they can help you install toilet seat raises, benches, and arm rails & bars for ease of use getting in and out of the shower / bathtub. Why is this important? Because during treatment and recovery, when your body is weakened, daily routines and tasks can become much more difficult and even dangerous.
For a more in-depth look at the role Occupational Therapy plays in cancer treatment, let's take a look at the American Occupational Therapy Association's (AOTA) recommendations and background.
*Note: To set up physical or occupational therapy, ask your doctor and/or oncologist. Request an appointment with your hospitals / medical centers Social Worker. The social worker can walk you through all the steps required to set up physical & occupational therapy.
They can even help you set up home visits - the physical therapist or occupational therapist can make routine visits to see the patient in the home if it is too difficult for the patient to make appointments or therapy sessions at the medical center. This is very important and we highly encourage setting something like this up through the social worker at your institution. Often is covered by health insurance.
In-home Exercise Equipment.
Exercise is important for maintaining strength, mental wellbeing, and aiding the body in recuperation during treatments. But sometimes getting to a gym or going for a walk outside can be difficult due to the travel, weather, or expenses. Not to mention, after a chemotherapy treatment or procedure, going outside or getting to the gym can be way too much for the patient.
But, by having the right equipment at home you can remove some of the stress while also ensuring the patient is getting much needed exercise. While we are cognizant of the financial pressures cancer can put on an individual and family, there are some affordable in-home pieces of equipment that can go a long way in making sure you are getting proper exercise. Below are a few of our must haves for any household:
- 2 lb Weights (non-slip grip) - $14 - adjust weight for size & strength. Good for maintaining and building arm & upper body strength. Can be used sitting, or even lying upright in bed.
- Elastic stretch bands - good for building upper and lower body strength in weakened state and stretching muscles. Can be used sitting, or even lying upright in bed.
- Seated exercise bike - At CQ, we recommend a seated exercise bike because it is easier to get on and off of, makes biking slightly easier if dealing with dizziness / nausea, and also allows you to exercise even if the weather is bad.
Further Reading: Science Behind Why Exercise is Important in Fighting Cancer
For further reading and a more technical / scientific background on why exercise is an important tool in aiding the bodies ability to fight cancer, we turn to the New York Times Well Blog.
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