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Exercise plays a crucial role in healthy living during and after cancer treatment. However, cancer patients and survivors may need to exercise less intensely and complete their workout at a slower pace than they are used to.

Exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous in order to produce results. “Research has shown that exercise is not only safe and possible during cancer treatment, it can actually improve how well you function physically and how well you feel ,” says Teri Hoenemeyer, Ph.D., director of Education and Supportive Services at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.”Adding more physical activity to your daily routines can include: walking around your neighborhood after dinner, doing yard work, house cleaning, using the stairs or parking farther away from a building than usual or taking 10-minute walking breaks during the day.

“Fatigue during and after chemotherapy and radiation can make you want to limit your physical activity too much, but completely stopping can actually increase fatigue, creating a vicious cycle,” Hoenemeyer says. “In fact, recent studies indicate that exercise that increases your heart rate, like fast walking, can reduce fatigue.”

In addition to physical benefits, there are many mental benefits of exercise. Exercise can help you relax, and it relieves anxiety. It also reduces your chances of developing anxiety and depression.

“Having an outlet, like exercise, to relieve stress is an important part of getting well and staying healthy,” Hoenemeyer adds. Other benefits of exercise during cancer treatment include:
Improved balance, decreased risk of falls and broken bones

  • Maintained muscle tone 
  • Decreased risk of heart disease 
  • Decreased risk of osteoporosis (weak bones that are more likely to break) 
  • Improved blood flow to legs and decreased risk of blood clots 
  • Improved self-esteem 

Even though there is still a lot of research on the effects of exercise on cancer recovery and on the immune system that needs to be done, most agree that regular exercise during and after a cancer diagnosis has positive health benefits. Physical activity may also reduce the risk of getting the following types of cancer or prevent cancer from recurring:

  • Breast cancer 
  • Colon cancer 
  • Endometrial cancer 
  • Advanced prostate cancer 
  • Pancreatic cancer 

Exercise and increased physical activity can also help prevent chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and hypertension.

When starting an exercise program or routine, each person will have different physical abilities due to their age, diagnosis and prior exercise experience so it is important to talk to your doctor before starting. Here are a few tips for starting an exercise routine:

  • Start slowly and take frequent breaks 
  • Use a mix of muscle groups for strength training, aerobics, and flexibility 
  • Always warm up first and stretch afterward 
  • Don’t push yourself and listen to your body 
  • Take deep breaths and relax! 

"Lace Up for a Cure" promotional information.For more information on current exercise recommendations for cancer patients and survivors, visit the American Cancer Society online.

Take the first step in starting an exercise route by joining us on Saturday, June 2 for the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center’s inaugural Lace Up for a Cure, a 2K (1.3 mile) walk raising awareness and education of services offered at the UAB Cancer Center and bringing together individuals who have been touched by cancer.

All ages are welcome. Free onsite parking is available. Learn more and register today!