Exercise and cancer

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are all doing well since our last post. This week’s theme is around the area of exercise and cancer (please note the aptly themed picture to your right!). Again this is a question that we often get asked by visitors here in ARC House, especially in relation to physical activity during cancer treatment. I will now hand you over to Shirley O’Shea Senior Health Promotion Officer with HSE South who has kindly written a post in relation to this area. As always please feel free to share any questions, comments, tips or stories with us below as we would love to hear from you…..

Personal Biography:
I have worked in the Health Promotion Department, HSE South since 1999. I am a Senior Health Promotion Officer, with responsibility for Physical Activity in Cork & Kerry. My role involves the promotion of physical activity across the lifespan in various settings such as schools, communities and workplaces.

Despite my active lifestyle in 2012 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, following treatment I am delighted to be able to resume all my activities as before my diagnosis. This also led me to get involved in the setting up of Corks first Dragon Boat team, which has encouraged those with Breast Cancer to take up paddling and do something really positive for their health and well being.

Exercise & Cancer:
Being physically active is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your health whatever your age or ability…..but how many of you know what the national guidelines are for physical activity for health benefits, not fitness?

All adults need 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on 5 days of the week. Over half of the adult population do not achieve this recommended level of physical activity. The good thing to remember is all activity you do over the course of your day counts, walking to work, dancing, gardening, carrying groceries, you don’t have to find 30 minutes to go to workout in a gym when we all have the ‘green’ gym on our doorstep!

How does physical activity benefit health?
Being active benefits our physical, mental and social well being and is positively associated with reducing the risk of many chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, stroke and lowers the risk some cancers.
In terms of our overall well being there is evidence of stronger bones, better sleep quality, manages our weight and reduces falls.

Physical Activity during Cancer Treatment
After a cancer diagnosis staying active may be the last thing you have energy for. Though some treatments and their side effects may limit your ability to partake in physical activity, research suggests that it can improve physical functioning and overall well being. If you are already physically active, you may find you cannot do as much as you are used to doing. People on chemotherapy and radiation treatment may need to exercise at a lower intensity for a time, and build up more slowly than people who are not getting cancer treatment. The main goal should be to stay as active as possible. For those who were inactive before diagnosis, low-intensity activities should be started and slowly increased.

During treatment you may find moderate physical activity can help to:
• Reduce fatigue, anxiety and nausea
• Improve your mood and self-esteem
• Improve your sleep.

Suitable Activities:
Choose activity that you enjoy!
Gentle exercise that includes stretching such as yoga, Pilates, or tai chi
Find someone who can accompany you
Are there specific exercise programmes for those with a cancer diagnosis such as ARC Ramblers walking group or Cork Dragon Boat, this will give you the encouragement and support you may find you need at this time.

It’s important to remember that an active lifestyle is an important factor in reducing the risk of cancer and we all feel better when we get fresh air, get the body moving and take time out for ourselves!

More information on getting active

3 thoughts on “Exercise and cancer

  1. Yes I do agree that exercise is important for those finished treatment or those of us who can do a little during treatment. Even ten minutes a day to start with and then you can build on that, On the days I found myself housebound, I would get up from the sofa, and walk around the room or the house. every so often I found that this helped my muscles from seizing up. If you build up your stamina, you get confidence and this helps your well being. In fact you can do this for any illness. It is also recommended now that all people who sit for most of their working day should get up and walk around every half hour to keep your circulation going. Walking is good as you can go for as little or as long as you wish and build up your distance and speed at your own pace

  2. Hi Joan,
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us here. You make some great points about listening to your own body and going at your own pace. Walking can be a good way to start becoming a little more active, even if it is just a small walk as you mentioned. Perhaps others out there have had similar experiences or have tried different ways of staying active?

  3. Pingback: Cork ARC Cancer Support Blog

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