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Exercise as a Form of Treatment for Cancer Patients

Posted on 02 February 2012

Once shied away from, exercise and physical fitness are now promoted as effective supplemental treatments for those fighting cancer. With the help of a doctor and health care staff, a cancer patient can create an exercise plan to meet his or her needs, while helping to improve the quality of life during cancer treatment. Participating in exercise throughout a treatment program provides many benefits to the patient. Outlined here are some of the benefits involvement in a physical fitness program can provide.

Increase in Muscular Strength

Strong muscles aren’t just for body builders. In addition to helping the body lift heavy objects, strong muscular health helps the cancer patient support their own body during daily activities. The muscular system is the foundation of the body; increasing muscular strength can benefit most every area of a patient’s life.

Better Cardiovascular Health

An increase in heart health provides the body with greater energy. Since cancer treatment can often leave a patient feeling drained, this can be counteracted through the participation of aerobic exercise.

Reduction of Fatigue

Constant feelings of fatigue make it difficult to accomplish daily tasks. Although some people view exercise as tiring, it increases energy over the long haul. Short bursts of exercise, such as walking or bicycle riding, are just as effective as longer periods of physical activity.

Mood Enhancement

It’s common and normal to feel stressed out during treatment. During exercise endorphins are released, helping to release stress and increase positive emotional feelings. Since a positive mental state is important in treatment and recovery, regular exercise is crucial to maintain these feelings.

Refocus of Energy

During cancer treatment the focus is often on the illness and treatment. Participation in a program that involves exercise helps shift the focus from being ill to achieving wellness. This is important as it helps the cancer patient feel empowered to do something positive during their treatment. Short or longer periods of exercise can be incorporated throughout the day to help combat stress and depression.

Over the past several years it has become evident in the cancer research field that, whenever possible, exercise should be included in a cancer patient’s daily activities. Although the okay of a doctor is vital, once that’s received, cancer patients can greatly benefit from participating in the physical activities they enjoy. There are many variables that will determine the type and intensity of exercises chosen. Type of cancer, stage of cancer, and physical ability prior to cancer treatment are a few examples of determining factors. Lung cancer and mesothelioma causes patients to often choose to focus on cardio exercises which can increase lung capacity while breast cancer patients may choose to focus on flexibility exercises.  Aside from providing physical and emotional benefits, the social time and shift in focus provide further benefits that have a positive impact on the patient.


Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April. 

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