The new year brings healthy resolutions for people looking to start exercising and improve their diet.
For many people diagnosed with mesothelioma, remaining healthy and strong is always a priority.
Years ago, oncologists advised patients to rest and “take it easy” during cancer treatments. However, research over the last decade shows exercise is safe during and after cancer treatments. It can help reduce side effects such as fatigue, pain and peripheral neuropathy (pain, tingling or numbness in the feet).
Exercising during cancer treatments can improve sleep, reduce anxiety and depression and lead to a healthier body image and self-esteem.
In 2010, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released recommendations for safe exercise and physical activity for cancer patients.
These recommendations focus on three areas of fitness:
- Cardiovascular: Any activity that raises your heart and breathing rate by moving major muscle groups repetitively
- Flexibility: Stretching soft connective tissue and muscles to improve range of motion
- Strength Training: Using resistance to build strength in muscle groups
Dangers of Exercising Outdoors During Chemotherapy
Exercising outdoors can be challenging for mesothelioma patients.
Many chemotherapy drugs affect the skin’s sensitivity to the sun (photosensitivity), making it necessary to cover up or put on sunscreen before going outside for long periods of time.
Some patients undergoing chemotherapy have compromised immune systems, putting them at risk of infection from others when working out at a gym or an exercise class.
If patients are experiencing peripheral neuropathy during chemotherapy, exercising outdoors in icy or wet conditions can be dangerous.
Easy Ways Cancer Patients Can Exercise at Home
If the weather isn’t conducive to exercising outdoors or it is not advisable to be around large groups of people in a gym, there are several ways mesothelioma patients can exercise safely at home.
Walking on a treadmill or using an elliptical machine is a great way to get some cardiovascular exercise in the privacy of your own home. If you don’t have one, chances are that one of your friends, neighbors or family members have one that is collecting dust in their garage and would love for it to be put to good use.
Resistance bands and light hand weights are a great way to maintain your muscle mass for strength training.
Many cable and satellite TV packages offer exercise programs that you can record and watch at your convenience. Simply search your TV programming schedule for terms like “exercise,” “fitness” or “yoga.” Most offer a wide variety of exercise styles from very gentle chair yoga to more intense fitness workouts.
Stretching is done easily at home using a bed or floor mat. The ACSM recommends stretching major muscle groups twice a week and outlines proper stretching techniques.
Workout programs designed specifically for cancer patients are available for purchase on DVD or Blu-ray. A general search online will result in many different options and you can review user ratings to see what other cancer patients thought of these workouts.
Mesothelioma patients should consult their doctor prior to starting any exercise program to ensure the program or style is safe. Patients undergoing chemotherapy or biological therapies may need to skip exercise a few days after treatment if they are struggling with side effects.
Low blood counts can also make exercise too much of a strain on the body.
Home-based fitness programs are a safe option for mesothelioma patients, but it is important to follow the specific recommendations of your physician based on your personal health status and history.