Why cancer patients should hit the gym

This month’s blog post comes from Virgil Anderson, who reached out to us and asked if he could share his story. Virgil was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. In this post, he talks about the benefits of exercise for cancer patients.

While someone living with cancer may not be able to work out to the extent that a healthy person can, there are still many major health benefits from being physically active. With the right trainer or physical therapist, regular exercise can help those living with cancer to have better outcomes from treatment, gain more mobility, fight fatigue, and experience a greater quality of life.

Here’s all you can look forward to by being more active:

Stay Fit and Maintain a Healthy Weight

A lot of cancer patients lose fitness while sick. Treatments slow you down, and you may find yourself spending a lot of time in bed. If you were athletic before you got sick, this can be really frustrating. With the right kind of workouts, however, you can avoid losing a lot of cardiovascular fitness and hard-won muscle mass. And even if you were never very active, working out now can help you to improve your fitness and be in better shape to take on your treatments. Exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight and feel better about taking control of your body, even while sick.

Fight Fatigue with Exercise

We all get tired sometimes, but cancer patients often experience a deep fatigue that feels almost impossible to counter. Exercise has been proven to improve energy levels. In at least one study with cancer patients, those who exercised regularly experienced as much as 50 percent less fatigue than those who were more sedentary. It isn’t easy to rise up in the face of exhaustion and get active, but once you do you won’t regret it.

Exercise Boosts Mood

Living with cancer is tough. It can leave you feeling hopeless about the future and can even cause anxiety, stress or even signs of clinical depression. Exercise, on the other hand, is a proven mood booster. Research shows that physical activity can reduce negative feelings and improve your mood long after your workout is over.

Outcomes Are Better with Exercise

We’ve all heard that exercise can offer life-extending health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease. You may not know, however, that these same benefits can extend to cancer patients. One study focused on breast cancer patients, comparing those who worked out a few times a week to those who did not. They found that those who worked out regularly had a significantly greater chance of survival. Other studies have shown that exercise can also reduce the risk of a recurrence of cancer.

At the end of the day, physical activity is good for just about everyone. While those with cancer may have some limitations and workouts may need to be gentler, physical activity for cancer patients can be safe and effective. If you want to get more active, talk to your doctor about finding a physical therapist who understands your restrictions and special needs. You can then benefit from an exercise routine that works with your specific needs—letting you experience all of the benefits physical activity can offer to those who are living with cancer.

About the Writer

Virgil Anderson was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Virgil’s exposure came from working in demolition and excavating since high school. 

When he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, he needed immediate medical attention. He found a few websites on the Internet that are supposed to help people with mesothelioma cancer, but nobody got back to him.

Then he found Mesothelioma.net. Even though he contacted them on a Sunday, one of their patient advocates called back within minutes and provided a great deal of helpful information on doctors and resources available to him.

As a result of their website information, he is now being treated at the National Cancer Institute; the patient advocates have even provided him with financial assistance so he could afford a place to live during his chemotherapy. If he had not reached out to this website, Virgil would likely be homeless and possibly even in hospice waiting to die. These people gave him his only chance at survival–and true hope.