‘A new year’…three words, one sentence. Thinking about the upcoming year, we may notice a sense of opportunity, hope and optimism, we may long for and be planning for a ‘fresh start’.
When the calendar turns to January, New Year’s resolutions step on stage and we often throw ourselves into new lifestyle practices in a flurry. Some resolutions are born of true readiness to make a change and some are born out of a sense of internal pressure and self-criticism that we are not — or our lifestyle choices are not — good enough.
So, as January draws closer, we invite you to approach the new year slowly, kindly, with thoughtful awareness and with some self-compassion. This is a good time to pause and reflect. You may wish to write some of your thoughts and reflections on paper. Take a few nourishing breaths and ask yourself some questions in order to take stock and plan your next steps.
Some questions to ask yourself might include:
Did I move my body regularly this year or these last few weeks or months? If not, how do I feel about that? Would I like to move more but perhaps am feeling low energy, unsure or stuck about how to (re)start?
If I did move regularly, how do I feel about that? Would I like to move more? Did I overdo it at times? If I had a regular exercise routine or movement practice, in what ways did it support my mental health? How, specifically, did it support my body and my physical health? For example, did moving my body help with stress, energy levels, sleep, appetite, treatment side effects and/or something else that is important to me? Did moving my body help me to feel more relaxed? Did I enjoy moving my body? Why? Why not?
Getting started (or restarted) can be daunting
It can be challenging, even overwhelming to some of us to consider starting or restarting exercise. We may worry about how to start or how to stay motivated. If we weren’t prioritizing exercise before being diagnosed, we may be thinking, why now? We may be feeling extra tired, weary, and/or down and disappointed about how we are feeling. We may be feeling sorry for ourselves about not feeling able to do some of the things that we did before our diagnosis or treatment. It may be heartbreaking to us that we are now considering whether we have enough energy to walk around the block when we were accustomed to having the energy to hike, run, cycle, ski or play tennis. Asking for guidance from a trained health care professional in the field of cancer and exercise is a great place to start.
We all need to move
Research tells us and our body-mind tells us that we need to move regularly. There are many benefits to exercise in general, and specifically for those who have had a cancer diagnosis. We all need to move. How much, how often and in what ways we move will depend on many factors including our energy levels, our strength, our range of motion, our balance, our medical history, our treatments and, very importantly, our interest. What types of activity spark your interest? Is there something you would like to try? What would you like to incorporate more? Perhaps above all, why? In other words, what is/are your reasons for exercising? When we are clear on why we are exercising, and we begin to notice the benefits in our lives, motivating ourselves to exercise becomes easier and easier.
In October 2020, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology released updated ‘Movement Guidelines for Adults’. The new guidelines were developed from extensive research and integrate recommendations for physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep. Notably, the recommendations for physical activity do not only recommend that we “move more”, but that we perform a variety of types and intensities of physical activity. Moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, muscle strengthening, balance, as well as light physical activity are all important. Light physical activity, such as household chores and casual neighbourhood walks, is essential to support our health.
Please note that each one of us will have a different experience of what ‘moderate’ or ‘vigorous’ exercise is. What is felt as ‘moderate’ exercise to one person may not be attainable to another and may be easily attainable to still another person. We are all different from one another, and we are all different in different chapters of our lives. What may seem vigorous to you in this moment, may be more challenging or could feel quite easy in another moment.
Exercise and cancer
There is an important relationship between exercise and cancer. As our health changes, so may our exercise regime. We want to engage in activity that best supports our mind, body and spirit on each particular day. That may mean participating in an online exercise class or it could mean going for a walk or gardening. It could also mean doing a breathing practice or interspersing gentle mobility and stretching throughout your day. It works best when a physical activity plan is a fluid process that is adaptable to how you are feeling, what you are experiencing and what you are in the mood for on any given day. If you are feeling unsure about how to begin, how to restart and/or how to align your movement practices with your current health status, please book a consultation with one of InspireHealth’s Exercise Therapists. Our team would be happy to hear from you.
As you begin, or continue to plan and adapt your exercise and movement practices, we recognize that the winter climate may make it seem extra challenging to incorporate physical activity into your life. It is important to incorporate some fresh-air exercise into your life if you can. The benefits of being outside are many and if we dress appropriately for the weather, any day can be an enjoyable day to be outside. Winter offers many beautiful moments and beautiful days. Dress warmly and get outside if you can.
In addition, here are some ideas for movement that you can do inside your home:
- Participate in an InspireHealth online exercise or movement class (including ‘strength and stretch’, yoga, chair-based aerobic exercise, qigong)
- Dance in your living room
- Do a pre-recorded movement video
- Take a several-minute “movement moment” to break up your work day or movie marathon (roll your shoulders, move your hips, breath and stretch)
- Book with one of InspireHealth’s Exercise Therapists to create an individualized home exercise program that’s just right for you
What does movement look like in your life? We would love to hear from you. Join us on social media (Facebook and Instagram) and tell us – or show us – how you like to move.