Exercising while fighting cancer does much more than build physical strength, it also helps to keep your mind clear and in control. The last thing most people undergoing treatment want to do is go out and exercise; however, the amazing benefits of physical activity may persuade you to turn off Netflix and get outside for some fresh air and a walk (we still love you, Netflix). What is exercise?
When most people think of “exercise,” they assume they need to do strenuous activities or go for a run. Running is a great form of cardio, but the wonderful thing is there are many types of exercises you can do that are less stressful on your body and can even be fun. The definition of exercise is any form of physical activity that has you moving your skeletal system and using more energy than you would use resting. This can include running, walking, biking, yoga, hiking, swimming, cleaning, and performing household chores, lifting weights, or playing sports. Today, there are hundreds of ways to move your body that could be considered “exercise.”
How does regular physical activity help your body fight cancer?
Below is a list of benefits from daily exercise. You should work up to 30 minutes of exercise a day if your body permits. Always consult a doctor before performing any physical activity and always listen to your body. Never push through an exercise if your body is giving you warning signs.
Exercise can help with:
- Depression and sadness
- Strengthening bones, muscles, and range of motion
- Improving your quality of life
- Reducing treatment side effects
- Helping to maintain a healthy weight
- Helping to build confidence
- Promoting better sleep
- Reducing fatigue
- Improving the Cardiovascular System
- Decreasing the chances of some types of cancers from returning
How do I find an exercise I like and how do I stay motivated?
Pick a list of exercises you are interested in and try them all out! It could be yoga, dance, Peloton, barre class, or spin class. If you like to exercise from the safety of your own home, YouTube is a great place to find prerecorded classes that will be sure to get you moving. You can also find many in-person exercise classes at your local gym or local exercise studio. If you are someone who needs a little extra attention, you can sign up with a personal trainer or run coach. Look into everything you are interested in to find out what you enjoy most. If you love your exercise routine, you will stick with it. If you feel like it is a job you need to complete every day, chances are you will quit before seeing any major benefits.
The biggest question that people ask is “how do I stay motivated to work out.” Unfortunately, there is no magic trick to keep you motivated. No person is motivated every day to work out, not even the professionals. Self-discipline is key.
Here are four tips to help you become disciplined and stay motivated:
Start slow and build up the amount of physical activity over time– Whatever physical activity you have found an interest in, make sure to slowly progress into it. If you have never run a day in your life, it’s not recommended that you go out and run a marathon. Starting too fast into something can cause burnout early in the process (not to mention potential injury) and you will find yourself feeling less interested to stick with it. If you have not exercised in a while, start with 10 minutes of physical activity, and work up to 30 minutes over time.
Have a friend join you or get a coach- Grab a friend to join in with you. Having someone exercise with you allows for the time to go by faster than it would if you were alone. This can make exercising more fun. Having a coach who understands and knows how to train you in the physical activity that you like is a great resource to have. Coaches will also hold you accountable to stick with your goals. To get stronger, it takes consistency, and a coach will be there to make sure you are doing your work while also keeping good form to prevent injury.
Stay consistent with the time of day you exercise- Find a time that works with your schedule and stick with it. This helps with consistency. Consistency is a common theme when it comes to exercise. The more consistent you are at exercising, the stronger you will become. It just becomes part of your routine (like having lunch at 12pm).
Stay hydrated and take in nutrients- Making sure your body is hydrated and eating nutritious meals is especially important. When your body is dehydrated, it will not work as well as it will when you are taking in enough water and electrolytes. Hydration helps your muscles work smoothly and circulate your blood, which is carrying the oxygen you need to exercise. Nutrients like carbohydrates and protein are what give you the energy to work out and recover after a difficult workout. Staying hydrated and eating nutritious meals are also important when going through cancer treatment and may help the side effects of treatment to be more manageable.
Where there is a will, there is a way.