Guest Post: Expanding Exercise Options for Cancer Patients

This is a post from David Haas. I’m highly complimented that he wanted it to appear here.

With doctors and patients gaining awareness of the benefits of aerobic and non-aerobic forms of exercise during every phase of cancer treatment, many patients are looking for different types of workouts to augment more traditional styles. Mixing novel workouts into the routine is an important way to maintain enthusiasm and prevent loss of momentum. Patient enjoyment of this complimentary intervention can ensure long-term participation, which is required for gaining long-term benefits.

Studies have shown that every form of physical activity can provide some level of benefits, from range of motion exercises for mesothelioma patients receiving palliative care to high-intensity endurance running and weight lifting for prostate cancer patients. Generally speaking, the more physical activity the patient engages in, the more benefits will accrue. At first, this may be a reduction in symptoms, but patients can expect benefits to grow with time and increased fitness levels.

The biggest problem faced by patients is overcoming the fatigue and pain of beginning a workout program. Many patients drop out at this stage, and the lose the opportunity to experience benefits. Since enjoyment and novelty are important to ensuring long-term participation, a few interesting ideas for increasing physical activity are presented along with their respective benefits.


Most traditional workout programs will have to be scaled back during active treatment, but gardening is one form of physical activity that can easily be modified for any treatment program. The only precaution is that patients undergoing radiation therapy may experience increased sensitivity to direct sunlight, but this can be remedied with a wide-brim hat.

Gardening is often thought of as labor intensive, and it can be at the beginning. Much of the labor is entirely unnecessary though, because sheet mulching can accomplish the same thing with a fraction of the work. The other tasks of gardening simply require movement, some stretching, and relaxing observation. This keeps the body limber, maintains circulation to the extremities, gives the body a chance to make more vitamin D, and helps balance the circadian rhythms for better sleep. As a side benefit, the vegetables and herbs can be chosen based on their benefits for specific forms of cancer and recovery.


Combining meditation, breath control, and stretching, yoga offers a non-aerobic activity that is suitable for every cancer patient. Those with limited function will be able to participate in many aspects of the program without worry, and those with a higher level of fitness will find yoga can be very challenging and rewarding. There are literally hundreds of styles in use today, and some teachers specialize in conducting classes for people facing chronic disease.

Yoga has proven effective at allowing patients greater control over blood pressure, heart rate, metabolic function, brain waves, and even body temperature. The National Institutes of Health has reported it can help with cancer symptoms as well.

Regardless of the type of exercise program chosen, it is important to find enjoyment in it. This will ensure steady participation and help in maximizing benefits for years to come.

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3 Responses to Guest Post: Expanding Exercise Options for Cancer Patients

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  2. Narcisa Gilhooly says:

    Physical exercise is any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness. It is performed for various reasons including strengthening muscles and the cardiovascular system, honing athletic skills, weight loss or maintenance, as well as for the purpose of enjoyment. Frequent and regular physical exercise boosts the immune system, and helps prevent the “diseases of affluence” such as heart disease, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

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