Exercise could help with cancer recovery

Motion for life

BALTIMORE - We could all use a little more exercise.

Getting fit is a big lifestyle change but for cancer patients that change can have a huge impact on the treatment and recovery.

Researchers from one British cancer charity found millions of cancer patients aren't getting their physical rehabilitation they need when treatment is over.

One place where rehab is part of the integrated approach to care is the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia (CTCA).

There are millions of cancer survivors in the U.S. living with the affects of their treatments, but Doctor of Physical Therapy, Lynsey Nagle says they still face some big issues. "The biggest issues are fatigue and energy levels. 70 to 100% of cancer survivors and patients currently on treatment report fatigue as the number one complaint or symptom. This fatigue can be ongoing for months after treatment," says Nagle.

Nagle says it's important to exercise, especially for cancer patients." Many patients ask if it's okay to exercise and the answer is yes. Not only is it beneficial it is important for their recovery. It helps fight the current cancer and can assist with preventing the cancer from reoccurring," she says.

The main thing for exercise it that it improves your energy level. "By performing physical activity, endorphins are released and it gives you that boost of energy. Exercise may enhance immune system, lower estrogen levels in the blood, rebuilds muscle, increases red blood cell count, enhances performance in everyday activities, improves endurance, respiratory capacity, strength, stability, bowel habits, flexibility, depression and enhances self image," says Nagle.

If cancer patients are already fatigued won't exercise just wear them out?

Nagle says to "start small, start with a short walk and work up. Ideally your are exercising at a fairly light to somewhat hard pace. It is not necessary to work at a hard intensity in order to increase your endurance. Should be doing 20 minutes 4 – 6 times a week. This is specifically for someone going through treatment. Once out of treatment you can increase the intensity, but you don't need to in order to get the benefits of aerobic activity."

So what is important for everyone to know before they start an exercise plan?

"Always stretch before and after any activity; could be a simple runner's stretch or stretching calves by standing on a curb. At CTCA the patients participating in the motion for life fitness program are monitored with there HR, BP etc. If you are looking to start a new aerobic fitness program it is recommended that you discuss exercise with your physician to ensure there are no concerns," says Nagle.

Neuropathy is a big problem for many cancer patients going through chemotherapy, that tingling and numbness in their hands and feet, but Nagle says there is a new machine that can help with that, it's called the 'ReBuilder'.

The ReBuilder is a very specialized form of TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator) that can produce dramatic improvement in the reduction of painful symptoms. The ReBuilder is an electronic device that you can use in the comfort of your own home.

To find out more about motion for life and oncology rehabilitation call1-800-333-ctca or cancercenter.com .

To find out more about the ReBuilder click here

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