David Haas
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Guest Blogger

Living with cancer can often be trying and difficult. Treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, often interfere with patients’ quality of life, and can decrease energy, appetite, body function and mood. Thankfully, many patients can improve the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment with the help of regular exercise.

Physical fitness can provide enormous benefits, both mental and physical for cancer patients. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, exercise can significantly improve quality of life for many different types of cancer patients.

Depression and anxiety are often associated with cancer; however, with regular workouts, the symptoms of depression can be significantly reduced. During exercise, mood-enhancing chemicals are released into the body. These chemicals reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and also work as natural painkillers. In short, individuals who work out are generally happier and more relaxed than those who choose inactivity.

Weight loss is a major concern for most cancer patients. Chemotherapy and radiation can severely decrease appetite, which often leaves patients malnourished and dehydrated. Lack of proper nutrients and hydration can increase symptoms of cancer and the side-effects of treatment. Regular exercise will increase appetite and thirst, and will help ensure patients to get the recommended intake of calories, vitamins and minerals.

Cancer treatments and medication often lead to a considerable decrease in general body function. Constipation, for example, is a common problem associated with the drugs used to treat cancer, and can leave patients feeling sluggish and uncomfortable. Exercise will help regulate the body and keep it in better working condition, which will lead to better overall health and comfort.

Since overdoing it can lead to health risks like increased blood pressure and exhaustion, it’s recommended for cancer patients to take a slow and steady approach to physical fitness. Ideal workouts for beginners include yoga, walking or swimming. What’s more, common tasks such as gardening and cleaning also burn calories, and can also provide health and wellness benefits. Any type of physical activity that increases heart rate can be considered exercise, which provides many options for patients looking to improve fitness levels.

For patients with certain cancers, such as mesothelioma, shortness of breath can make physical activity a challenge. For these patients, light or moderate exercise is preferred over intense, cardiovascular workouts. Short walks at an easy or moderate pace can increase energy, mood and appetite, and can also improve lung function. Yoga has also been shown to improve breathing, which makes it another great option for lung cancer and mesothelioma patients.

Although exercise isn’t exactly a cure for cancer, it can significantly improve a patient’s general health and well-being. By improving body function, mood, appetite and energy levels, physical fitness can lead to better quality of life for cancer patients. Whether just diagnosed, currently receiving treatment or in remission, deciding to get in shape can be one of the best decisions of a patient’s life.