As you go through treatments for mesothelioma, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. After all, you’re juggling appointments and spending several days a week at the cancer center- all while coping with symptoms such as breathlessness and fatigue.
You may even get to a point where you dread exercise. Hey, this can happen even when you are in great health.
But once you find the right way to fit exercise into your life, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Before you start an exercise regimen, be sure to discuss your plans with your oncologist. If you’ve recently had (or are planning to have) certain mesothelioma surgeries, be sure to adhere to the recovery guidelines. Do not start exercising until your doctor has cleared you to resume normal activity.
Once you have the green light to get on your feet, the following steps can help you make exercise a regular habit, even during hectic treatment cycles.
Be kind to yourself and your body. Right now, your body is using lots of energy fighting off your cancer. You may have lower-than-usual energy levels, and you may lose some of your strength or endurance. This is normal.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not as athletic as you have been at other points in your life. Stay within a moderate range of exercise, and remember to slowly build up to the goals you’ve set with your doctor.
If all you can manage one day is five minutes of exercise, don’t stress about it. Appreciate what your body allows you to do, then make it your goal to add a few more minutes to your next session. When you’re not feeling discouraged about your physical abilities, you’re more likely to get motivated for your next session.
Ditch the workout mentality. Right now, you’re probably not worried about lifting x amount of pounds or running y amount of miles. As you work to fit exercise into your treatment schedule, your biggest goal should just be to stay active.
Any type of physical activity can have major benefits on your health, but the key is consistency. To get the most benefits, you need to find an exercise that you enjoy so much that you can consistently do, even when you’d rather stay on the couch.
Traditional exercises such as yoga and tai chi are great at helping cancer patients relax and stay active. However, if these aren’t for you, look for active hobbies that fall outside of the box of traditional workouts.
Gardening, hiking, fishing and strolling through the park are great ways to get your heart rate up and strengthen various muscle groups without actually “working out.”
Set a schedule. Many patients find it easiest to exercise regularly when it is part of their daily routine. Once you establish a treatment schedule, plan your exercise around those appointments.
As you go through treatment and learn how your body responds to the various therapies, adjust your schedule as necessary. For example, patients who feel fatigued in the days following a chemotherapy infusion session may wish to take rest days after their appointment, instead scheduling their exercise for the days before they head in for the therapy.
Partner up. Unless you love the quiet “me time” that comes along with exercising, consider asking a friend, family member or caregiver to be an exercise buddy. The time flies when you have someone to chat with, and you may even feel more motivated to go exercise if you know it’s an opportunity to catch up with a friend.
Can’t think of anybody to partner up with? Try joining a cancer support group and meeting up with one or more of your fellow members.
Make time for good food and sleep. Just like it did when it was healthy, your body needs the right combination of foods to fuel itself for activity. However, now that your body is using even more energy to fight off the tumors, you’ll need extra food to fuel for both recovery and exercise. You’ll also need plenty of rest so that your muscles can rebuild themselves.
Be sure to eat plenty of calorically dense carbohydrates and muscle-building proteins, and check in periodically with a cancer nutritionist to make sure your goals are on target. Also, strive for eight or more hours of sleep per night, plus naps whenever you feel fatigued, to make sure your body is able to sustain your increased activity level.
Have you established an exercise routine after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis? What tips and tricks have helped you fit exercise into your treatment schedule? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook.