How Exercising Benefits Cancer Rehabilitation

cancer rehab


A cancer diagnosis of any kind is devastating. It is an inevitability that the worst possible outcome will be swirling around your head. However, cancer treatments are becoming more and more sophisticated and, with the right help and medical care, it will soon be your rehabilitation occupying your mind.

No matter the type and severity of cancer you have/had been treated for, treatment is likely to have some kind of side-effects, which almost always include fatigue. Radiotherapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and proton beam therapy are all likely to leave you feeling a little bit worse for wear in some way, but ultimately working to make you better.

An oncologist will recommend that the patient tries to exercise as much as possible, depending on the exact type of cancer present and treatment undergone, as it will help to relieve symptoms such as fatigue and tiredness.

Helps Mental and Physical Well-being

The positive effects of exercise on our physical well-being is well known. The more we exercise, the fitter and stronger we become. With that being said, however, the other clear benefit of exercise is to improve our mental well-being.

Exercise releases endorphins, which help to improve our mood and make us feel better than before we began a workout. For patients recovering from cancer treatment, exercising can help to take their mind off the fact they are recovering from a deadly disease.

Even in cases when you wouldn’t immediately think that exercise can aid the recovery process, it is still a valuable component of rehabilitation. Just under 10% of new female cancer diagnosis are gynaecological (vaginal) cancer, and it’s likely that patients undergoing treatment will be referred for surgery.

Just walking for half an hour each day can help to reduce symptoms such as fatigue, tiredness, and psychological distress. Doing so will also help the patient to lose and/or keep weight off when they might otherwise be inactive, which will help the body to respond better to treatment.

Seek Medical Advice

Before planning a gym session, you should seek medical advice before getting started. Exercise is good, but you may not be able to push yourself as hard as you could before, and neither should you. The cancer care team will be best placed to offer a care plan, inclusive of recommended exercises, that you can follow to get yourself back on your feet.

If you have, or will undergo, surgery then the type of exercise you are able to undertake will likely be limited. You will likely be given a list of rehabilitation exercises to promote movement, especially in the weeks after your treatment, but do not expect to be lifting any heavy weights or training for a marathon any time soon. That will all come with time, so long as you follow the advice of the doctors.

When Can You Go Hard Again?

Fitness fanatics will be keen to know when they can go hard in the gym again after treatment. The answer to that question is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, with each patient’s situation different from another. Different peoples’ bodies react in different ways, so there is no true way to say definitively how long it will be until you can take the chains off.

Patients undergoing surgery will likely have to wait longer than patients undergoing non-invasive treatments, although some side-effects (such as fatigue and inflammation) may persist for longer. The important thing is not to stress too much about the exercise you are getting, as this is the time to focus on your recovery.

Some exercise is good, but don’t expect to be hitting the gym as hard as you did before for some time. Follow the medical advice you are given and try to stay as active as you can in your recovery.

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