The health benefits of physical exercises are well known. Less known, however, are their potential benefits for people suffering from cancer before, during and after chemotherapy treatment. Light aerobic and cardiovascular exercises go a long way to help alleviate the symptoms of cancer treatment and helps the patient stay strong – both physically and mentally. One form of cancer that exercise is of particular benefit is mesothelioma. This type of cancer affects the linings of internal organs, in most cases the lungs.
If you or someone you know suffers from mesothelioma and are wondering whether exercising helps, read on because this post is for you.
Benefits of Exercise for Mesothelioma Patients
Living with a life threatening condition such as mesothelioma makes it almost impossible to focus on anything else – let alone physical exercise. There are many scientifically documented benefits of regular exercising for patients suffering or recovering from this form of cancer. Considering that mesothelioma is a cancerous condition that affects the lungs, physical exercise has more profound impact on patients suffering from it compared to other types of cancer. Regular physical exercise will benefit a patient suffering from mesothelioma in the following ways:
Reduced stress levels and lower risks of depression
Most people undergo an enormous amount of stress when they are first diagnosed with cancer. Some patients even get depressed and their anxiety levels peak because it is almost impossible for them to take their minds off their diagnosis, making their condition even worse. Exercise, on the other hand, is a great way for a patient to take their mind off their situation and to suppress negative thoughts. Just a week of regular exercising will significantly help the patient combat stress and depression and set their minds on the path to recovery for the body to follow.
Lack of appetite is one of the side effects of cancer treatments. When a patient suffering from mesothelioma is undergoing treatment, they are very likely to experience difficulty swallowing and even when they do, keeping the food down is another challenge. Eating stops being an enjoyable activity, and poor diet means that the body does not get the nutrients it needs to see the patient through the recovery journey. Exercise is known to increase the body’s metabolism and ultimately appetite for food and the body’s overall nutrition. This goes a long way to speed up recovery.
Improved body functions
It is totally expected that the body of a person undergoing cancer treatment will suffer from decreased body functions such as lethargy, insomnia, poor mobility, and diminished motor functions. The only effective way to nurture the body to normalcy is through physical exercises. The exercises do not need to be strenuous workouts; taking a stroll, jogging, or yoga will help the patient recover basic bodily functions such as deep sleep, high energy levels, and improve motor and cognitive functions.
Exercising improves the patient’s self-image and self-control
At first, a patient living with mesothelioma may feel like they have lost control of their life, not only because of the seriousness of the condition but also because of the myriad of changes the body has to undergo during treatment. Loss of muscle mass, rapid weight loss or weight gain, and hair loss are just a few of the changes a cancer patient may have to undergo.
With exercise, the patient can maintain a certain degree of fitness and will have greater control over the body. This is a powerful tool that will influence the mind, which in turn affects how fast and effectively it recovers from the treatments.
Improved treatment outcome
In many cases, the only limitation to the treatment a patient suffering from mesothelioma can receive is the state of physical health. A patient who exercises regularly will not only be eligible for more diverse forms of treatment but their improved overall physical fitness will make them able to better tolerate the cancer treatments. A 2014 study by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center [https://www.mskcc.org/blog/what-are-benefits-exercise-during-and-after-treatment] revealed that cancer patients who exercised regularly during and after treatment were more likely to survive the cancer than those who led sedentary lifestyles.
Safe Exercises for Mesothelioma Patients
A couple of years ago, oncologists advised cancer patients to get as much rest as possible and ‘take it easy’ while they underwent treatment. Today, they are advising patients to exercise regularly to improve their chances of recovery. The right exercises for a patient suffering from mesothelioma should:
- Maintain and improve lung capacity and oxygen flow throughout the body;
- Improve body energy levels, strength, and endurance;
- Boost bone density and mobility;
- Enhance cardiovascular health; and
- Necessitate a healthier body composition.
Based on these requirements, the safest exercises to do when suffering from mesothelioma are:
- Leg squats
- Wall pushups
- Shoulder Press
- Chair Exercises (such as kick and contract)
- Bicep Curls
- Cycling and elliptical training
You will notice that these are light exercises that can easily be performed standing or sitting. Each of these exercises should be performed for between 30 minutes and 1 hour three to five times a week for maximum effect.
Exercises Mesothelioma Patients Should Avoid
Any form of intensive exercise that may cause shortness of breath is not recommended for patients with mesothelioma. Some of the exercises the patient should avoid include:
- Hot and power yoga
- Long distance cycling and running
- Heavy weightlifting
- Fast cardiovascular training
- Intense workout programs such as P90X, CrossFit, and boot camp classes.
Safety Precautions During Treatment for Mesothelioma
A patient undergoing treatment for mesothelioma can make these exercises safer and more effective by adapting them to his/her overall physical fitness level. Some treatments such as chemotherapy with intensive side effects such as fatigue are best matched with low impact workouts such as yoga or walking.
Patients are advised to get full physical health check including cardiac health check to understand their limitations before coming up with a workout or exercise routine. Most cancer centers today offer comprehensive lifestyle advise that include the right exercises the patient should engage in and the ones they should avoid. If you are undergoing mesothelioma treatment but did not receive this information at your center, you should consult a professional to help you design an exercise plan personalized just for you.
How to Create an Exercise Routine
Every cancer patient needs to have an exercise routine that is personalized to their specific condition and life situation. All exercise routines start small – short walks, 3-minute yoga, or a simple chair exercise – and build over time. Depending on the treatments a patient is undergoing and their physical status, the routine may be as frequent as multiple times a day to as infrequent as twice a week.
Over time, as the routine is developed, more and more exercises may be added. The objective of such an exercise routine is to help the patients gain all the benefits of the physical exertion without over-stressing the body or mind. Most patients are advised to begin their exercise routines with walking then build on it by experimenting and adding new exercises while increasing the intensity of the workouts to formulate an ideal routine.
Ultimately, the ideal workout routine should have exercises from all the three general exercise types: cardiovascular, aerobic, and strength exercises.
Getting Friends & Family Involved
The fight against mesothelioma is not the kind that a person can fight alone; friends and family have a role to play in encouraging the patient and helping them follow through with their fitness routines. Besides, people enjoy exercising and will even perform better at it when they have someone on their side to encourage them and to share the workout experience and benefits.
If sticking to an exercise routine is hard enough for healthy individuals, imagine how hard it is for a patients combating mesothelioma! The good thing is, sticking to the workout routine much easier when there is peer pressure from friends and family – this is the kind of motivation a patient needs especially during the period before the benefits of the exercises are apparent.