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March 2020

 

Why Cancer Survivors Should Hit the Gym

Better detection and treatment means about 15.5 million Americans now belong to a select group: cancer survivors.        

That’s good news, of course. But the disease, and its treatment, often leaves scars. Cancer survivors may feel fatigue and mental health effects. They also have a higher risk for heart disease and cancer coming back.

Fortunately, there’s a remedy for many of these issues. It doesn’t require surgery, pills, or an infusion. Exercise can improve your health physically and mentally on the other side of a cancer diagnosis.   

The dose makes the difference

Healthcare providers have known about the magic of movement post-cancer. Now, a group of experts reviewed more than 2,500 studies to drill down into the details.

Generally speaking, they advise survivors do moderate-intensity aerobic workouts for at least 30 minutes, three times per week. This can:

  • Alleviate anxiety

  • Diminish depression

  • Fight fatigue

  • Improve physical function

  • Boost health-related quality of life, or how mentally and physically good you feel

Adding strength-building moves, too, results in similar perks.

Importantly, breast cancer patients can also work out safely without fear of lymphedema, they note. Doctors once feared exercise caused or worsened this fluid buildup. Now, they realize cardio and supervised strength-training sessions don’t cause issues.

Steps to sweat safely

People with certain types of cancer or treatment may need to take special precautions. For instance, those whose disease affected their bones should avoid twists or high-impact moves.

Survivor yourself? Talk with your provider about the best way to get moving. Some medical or community centers offer targeted exercise programs. You can also look for a certified cancer exercise trainer. These fitness pros are trained to guide patients and survivors.

If you haven’t had cancer, physical activity can help you avoid it. In fact, one study found regular movement reduced the risk for 13 types of the disease. That includes breast, colon, and lung cancers.

 

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2020
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