May is Physical Activity Month, a time to focus on the importance of physical activity and exercise for our overall health and well-being!
We know that exercise is safe and recommended throughout the entire cancer journey.
Physical activity has been shown to enhance physical function, mental well-being, and overall quality of life while reducing side effects associated with cancer treatment such as fatigue, anxiety, depression, deconditioning, loss of bone mineral density, and changes in body composition.
Current recommendations for exercise during cancer emphasize avoiding inactivity and gradually returning to normal daily activities as you feel able.
So, what kind of activity is included in an exercise plan?
Aerobic exercise refers to activities that get your heart pumping!
Examples include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, dancing, and InspireHealth Cardio and Strength classes! Evidence shows that aerobic training improves cardiovascular health in cancer patients on and off treatment.
The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends:
- 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week.
- For aerobic exercise, 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week is a great place to start.
- This could include short walks or light cycling; or you might choose to do a few of these shorter bouts a day; just 10 minutes of moderate activity can improve physical and mental health!
It is important to work at your own pace to avoid complications or worsening side-effects of cancer treatment.
Unsure how to measure the intensity of your activity?
The Talk Test is an easy way to measure how our bodies are responding to activity.
- During light exercise, you should be able to talk comfortably for an extended period of time.
- During moderate exercise, talking requires effort, but should not prevent you from having a brief conversation.
- During vigorous exercise, talking becomes extremely difficult, and you are unable to speak more than one or two words at a time.
During strength exercise, resistance is applied to the muscles; often through the use of weights, resistance bands, or body weight exercises such as push-ups or squats, which stimulate our muscles to adapt and grow stronger over time.
Strengthening activities using major muscle groups should be completed at least twice a week, and progressed slowly to avoid risk of injury.
Strength exercise has many benefits, including improved bone health, quality of life, and range of motion while decreasing the risk of cancer related side-effects, such as fatigue, lymphedema and muscle loss.
Flexibility & Balance Training:
Balance exercises challenge your ability to stay upright and maintain stability in a specific position.
Balance can be challenged in various types of exercise, such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, or balance specific exercises, like standing on one leg, walking on an imaginary tightrope, or sitting on an exercise ball.
Regular balance exercise can help increase coordination and reduce the risk of falls and related injuries.
Flexibility exercise, also known as stretching, is physical activity that focuses on improving range of motion in the joints and muscles. Flexibility training can have many benefits; including improved posture, as well as reduced risk of injury, muscle soreness, and tension after exercise.
It is recommended to practice full body stretches with deep and slow breathing daily.
Flexibility exercises are included in many forms of exercise, such as yoga and mindfulness-based movement practices. Flexibility training is also often included in strength-based programming.
All InspireHealth exercise classes incorporate flexibility and balance exercises.
Let’s summarize the above information into your perfect dose of exercise according to the exercise guidelines:
- 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise per week
- Two or more strength-based exercise sessions per week
- Flexibility and balance work daily
Some days you might feel well and able to complete a full exercise session, other days you may need to break your exercise into several small sessions throughout the day. Remember to listen to your body and progress at your own pace.
For exercise recommendations that are individualized for you, we recommend meeting with an exercise therapist with expertise in supportive cancer care.
Get in touch with us today to book.
We are looking forward to moving with you!
American Counsel of Sports Medicine; Physical Activity for the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer, 2019
British Columbia Medical Journal, 2019; New international exercise guidelines for cancer survivors
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology; 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, 2021
Measuring Physical Activity Intensity | Physical Activity | CDC