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Although cancer treatment — chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and hormone therapy — can be lifesaving, it can also take its toll on your body. Once treatment is over, you may feel like taking it easy or be eager to get back to an active lifestyle. Either way, incorporating exercise into your life after cancer treatment can have many benefits.
It’s important to understand cancer treatment affects everyone differently. Your age, general health and the type of treatment you undergo play a part in the severity of side effects. But before you can develop a fitness program, it’s helpful to understand how treatment can affect your fitness.
Some types of treatment may also lower your immune system function, which means you may get sick easier. Treatment can leave you feeling fatigued and may deplete your body of certain nutrients, such as potassium and iron. Some people may become anemic, which can lead to shortness of breath and a lack of energy.
If you experience some of the side effects listed above, they can last for several weeks after treatment is over. In some instances, cancer treatment can also cause long-term side effects, which may last years after treatment is over. For example, neuropathy, which involves decreased feeling, can occur in the feet and hands and last for years.
Before starting an exercise program, consider what short and long-term side effects you’re dealing with. Certain modifications may need to be made to make exercise both safe and effective. The good news is in most cases, there is some type of exercise that is doable.
Benefits Of Exercise After Cancer Treatment
Exercise can be beneficial for almost everyone and it’s no different for people recovering from cancer. Regardless of whether you have a cancer diagnosis or not, regular exercise can improve your cardiovascular health and increase strength. But for people who have undergone cancer treatment, there are also additional benefits.
Consider some of the following benefits:
Increased Energy: Cancer treatment can cause fatigue. Exercise can increase your stamina and energy level. Of course, it’s essential to consider how you feel each day and realize your energy level may vary after cancer treatment.
Weight Maintenance: Cancer treatment can cause weight loss in some, but for others their weight increases. Medication side effects combined with decreased activity can result in weight gain. Exercise after cancer treatment can help you return to a healthy weight.
Less Pain: In some instances, cancer or its treatment can cause side effects, such as muscle or joint pain. Doing the right type of exercise can improve range of motion and decrease stiffness and pain.
Decreased Anxiety: It’s very common to feel anxiety when you are diagnosed with cancer. Even after you complete treatment, feeling anxious is normal. You might worry about a relapse or returning to work. Getting regular exercise can decrease stress and improve mood.
Improved Self-Image: From hair loss to scars, cancer can change your appearance. Emotionally, it can also cause changes. Some people feel helpless or less productive. Exercise in one way to increase your self-esteem. Exercise can help you feel stronger and look better, which often improves self-image.