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Exercises for the Person with Cancer
by: Lora Packel, MS, PT

Disclaimer: You should discuss your health risks with your physician before starting any exercise program.

Exercise is an important part of cancer recovery. Exercises can help with fatigue management, weakness, shortness of breath, sleep and concentration. In addition, exercise will help reduce risk factors for heart disease and stroke conditions that you should think about after your cancer recovery.

There are two main types of exercise, each with its own specific goals. First, there is aerobic exercise which aims to increase your ability to perform work over a period of time. It increases your ability to exercise, walk, perform household duties or work before you become tired and strengthens your heart. In order to increase your aerobic capacity or endurance, you need to repetitively perform an activity over a period of time (duration). How long the duration is and how intense or strongly you work depends on a few factors:

* Type of cancer
* Type of treatment (radiation, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy)
* Stage of treatment (active or surveillance)
* Medical information such as laboratory values
* Fitness level

It is recommended that you perform light to moderate intensity exercise during treatment and moderate exercise once treatment has ended.

The second main type of exercise is strength training. This type of exercise helps increase your strength by building muscle mass. It is achieved by lifting weights such as dumbbells, using exercise machines at the gym, or using gravity and the weight of your own body.

Before beginning any exercise program, it is important to have a discussion with your medical team. There may be reasons to delay an exercise program, depending on your medical status. If you experience any of the following symptoms, consult your physician.

* Shortness of breath - the talk test. You should be able to walk and talk at the same time. If not, slow your speed.
* Dizziness
* Imbalance
* Pain - stop immediately and consult your physician
* Chest pain or pressure - stop immediately and call 911
* Muscle soreness the next day or two - you overdid it! Rest, take a warm shower and a day off. The next time you exercise, reduce your speed and intensity.

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