Physical activity during cancer treatment – Macmillan Cancer Support

Physical activity during cancer treatment – Macmillan Cancer Support


My name is Dr. Anna Campbell and I work at
the University of Dundee. For the last 10 years I’ve been working in the area of cancer
and exercise. Overall, being active during and after treatment can give you a lot of
physical and psychological benefits. Physically, it can make you feel stronger and more able
to do your normal daily living, and psychologically it can actually boost your mood, make you
feel more positive and help reduce any anxiety or depression that you may have.
I’m Richard Cranefield, I live in Kingston and I had hairy cell leukaemia. I can only
speak for myself but I’m sure that most people that have been through cancer find it at times
pretty depressing and get quite low and I was, even after my treatment, feeling quite
low a lot of the time. I found that going down the gym actually removed all of those
low points for my life. One of the main debilitating side effects
of treatment is fatigue, so actually contradictory to what you may think, if you actually stay
active you’ll become less tired. Now some of the treatments, some of the hormone treatments
can actually affect your bone density and so it’s very important that if you stay active
and do weight-bearing exercises like walking you can actually reduce the bone density thinning
that can happen. During treatment and after treatment there’s
also sometimes a problem with either weight gain or weight loss and in particular, the
evidence is showing that if you can stay active you can manage your weight a lot better.
My name’s Heather Lawrence, I live in Muswell Hill and I have secondary breast cancer. The
hormone treatments which I’m on made me put on weight, about two stone in total, so I
really did feel very bad about myself at that point. For my own self-esteem and also to
help make me feel like I was doing something to help my treatment I started exercising.
With some of the cancer treatments you’ll actually lose a lot of muscle mass, and therefore
it’s quite important with physical activity to build those muscles back up again. So doing
little, simple muscle strengthening exercises will help you to gain that muscle mass, which
will allow you to get on with your active daily living.
My name is Lorna Nim, and I live in West Acton. I had breast cancer. Joining the gym is the
best thing I’ve ever done. It’s helped me to understand myself physically what I need
to do to keep healthy and also it’ll help to stave off any sort of future illness, hopefully.
There’s some emerging evidence that being physically active after a cancer diagnosis
can protect you from the cancer coming back or dying of that cancer. The evidence has
come from colorectal, prostate and breast cancer survivors.
6– 8 months after my treatment I decided that I was going to start getting a lot fitter.
Mine’s a chronic condition and I will have to go through chemotherapy again and I want
to get battle fit, as it were, to try and get my fitness levels up so that in a year’s
time or ten years time, when I have to have chemotherapy again, I’m starting off at a
reasonable level of fitness. There are three different types of physical
activity that people need to incorporate. Aerobic exercises, when you’re using the large
muscles in a continuous, rhythmical way. A great example of this is walking. What you
have to do to get the benefits for your cardiovascular, your heart and your lungs is that you have
to work fairly hard, and what I mean by that is when your breathing begins to become a
bit more frequent, a bit heavier. You feel as if you’re getting a bit warmer, your face
may have a warm glow to it. These are all signs that you’re working at a moderate intensity,
which is the intensity needed to get the health benefits. The second type of exercise is muscular strength or toning. What you need to do to strengthen
your muscles is work them a little bit harder. An example of this is carrying shopping. For
muscular strength and toning you can use hand weights, you can use resistance bands, or
you can use your own body weight. The third type of exercise is flexibility
and balance. Now flexibility is stretching the muscles so you improve the range of movement
around the joint. And this is good for daily things, like reaching up to get something
off a high shelf or kneeling down to tie your shoelaces. And finally, balance. A lot of
people find, that with cancer treatment the muscles aren’t as strong as they used to be
and the balance isn’t as good as it used to be. Things like tai chi and yoga and Pilates
are excellent examples of balance and flexibility exercises.
On some of my better days, I’d get up out of bed, do a little bit of yoga or just stretching
and that just kind of boosted me for that day really.
During treatment it’s natural that you may feel tired and run down and poorly. Any type
of physical activity is better than nothing at this stage. So it’s important to pace yourself
and gradually build up your physical activity levels. One problem some people find is that
when they feel good they do far too much, and then the next day they’re absolutely exhausted.
Therefore, it’s important to listen to your body and do as much physical activity as you
can depending on how you’re feeling on that day. So the aim is to accumulate two and a
half hours of physical activity each week after treatment. This can be done in small
packets like ten minutes or it can be an hour and a half, or two hours of physical activity.
Everybody is different and everybody will have different types of physical activity
that they would like to take part in — for example gardening, golf, aerobics classes,
walking, playing with the children. It was really hard to actually get moving.
When I first started running, I’d spend half an hour thinking of anything I could do to
avoid actually going out and hitting the streets. But I gradually started to enjoy it and I
came back with such a buzz after going for a run. I really felt like I wanted to get
back out there and so I increased the amount of times I was getting out for runs and I
just felt completely better as a result, much happier and I was looking better as well,
which was really important. To find out about more activities in your
area, if you’re interested in becoming more active, you should contact your GP or get
in touch with your local council or contact Macmillan who will signpost you to leaflets,
also information on the internet. Now I feel much stronger in myself, which
is really important and I don’t come home from work feeling exhausted anymore, I’m sort
of ready to go out for an evening, which is really great and means that I can enjoy life
more. For information, help, or if you just want
to chat call the Macmillan support line on 0808 808 00 00 or visit macmillan.org.uk

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