Continuing a Fitness Journey Following a Cancer Diagnosis : Being diagnosed with cancer can feel like the end of the world. Or certainly, the end of your life as you know it. Most people struggle with denial, anger, grief, anxiety, shock, panic, and a whole range of other emotions. It’s certainly not something any of us are ever prepared for and it can be hard to get out of that chair in the doctor’s office and go back to your normal life.
For most people, the last thing that they feel like doing is exercising. Following a diagnosis, there are conversations and treatment plans and medications, you have people to tell, appointments to make, and then, if you start treatment, things might feel as though they are getting worse.
After diagnosis, and during treatment, your mood and energy levels are bound to be low. Hitting the gym might be the furthest thing from your mind. But, continuing your fitness journey, or even starting one if you didn’t previously exercise regularly, can be a great idea.
The Benefits of Exercise While Receiving Cancer Treatment
The benefits of exercising while receiving treatment or adjusting to a diagnosis are actually quite similar to the benefits of exercise to a perfectly healthy person. These include:
- Increased energy levels
- Improved mood
- Increased adrenaline levels
- Decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Better quality sleep
- Increased appetite
- Improved flexibility and strength
- Ability to maintain a healthy weight
- Improved motivation and focus
- Boosted immune system
- Decreased side effects of treatment
- Improved quality and enjoyment of life
Get the Right Support
Before starting any exercise plan, you must speak to your doctor about your options and any precautions that you might need to take. You must have medical support that you can rely on, and the right healthcare. Circle Health Group have 14 dedicated cancer centres offering comprehensive oncology treatment. When you trust Circle Health Group with your oncology care, you don’t just receive the diagnosis and treatment that you need; you also get the support to help you to continue to enjoy life and keep otherwise fit and healthy.
If you have any worries, or experience new symptoms during or after exercise, speak to your doctor straight away.
Prioritise Mental Health
Exercise is a great mental health boost. It gives you confidence and helps to release positive chemicals into your brain. But it also gives you time to yourself, away from being a patient, or talking about your condition. When your body is feeling weak, focus on those mental health benefits, which you will get no matter how slowly or gently you are moving.
Listen to Your Body
Your body is working much harder than usual while you are in treatment or living with cancer. It’s going through something you can’t possibly have prepared it for, and while exercise can be beneficial, it’s incredibly important that you take your time, move carefully, and above all, listen to your body. If you are tired, stop. If you feel unwell, or uncomfortable, take a break. This isn’t the time to push yourself to hit new personal bests, and it’s important to remember that when it comes to exercise, all movements count.
Refuel and Hydrate
During treatment, you may find that you lose your appetite. Exercise can be a great way to regain it, to some extent. You might not want to pig out or eat like you used to, but try to eat when you feel like it, and treat yourself to what you fancy. Even when you don’t feel hungry, make sure you drink plenty of water after exercise. Your body will need this more than ever.
As time passes, how you feel, what you are capable of, and what you want to do will change. It’s safe to assume that you won’t be able to work out at the same level, or in the same ways throughout treatment or as your condition develops. There’s going to be plenty of ups and downs, and that’s okay.
On days when you don’t feel like moving much, try something different like a gentle yoga practice, which focuses more on how you feel, and finding peace, than doing something which could cause you pain. Swimming can also be very peaceful, and even a short walk can boost your mood.
Time Your Workouts
Regular exercise is always the best way to feel the most benefits. But your cancer isn’t going to follow your routine, so you might have to make some changes. Time workouts around your treatment plan, making sure you get plenty of rest, and that you schedule something active or with friends around appointments where you might be feeling anxious.
Listen to your body, check in with your doctor and enjoy exercise. You’ll soon start to enjoy the benefits, even if you only exercise very gently, or for short periods.
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