Exercise and the Cancer Patient


The Mayo Clinic lists 11 alternative cancer therapies, three of which are exercise, yoga and Tai Chi. Per the Mayo Clinic: “Alternative cancer treatments won’t play any role in curing your cancer, but they may help you cope with signs and symptoms caused by cancer and cancer treatments. Common signs and symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, pain, difficulty sleeping, and stress may be lessened by alternative treatments. ”

What’s Yoga? Yoga is a mind and body therapy that includes gentle stretches, breathing practices, and progressive deep relaxation. Visit the Yoga Center site for information on the many types of yoga.

What’s Tai Chi? A form of exercise that utilizes slow gentle movements and deep relaxed breathing. A weight bearing exercise it builds strength, muscle tone, improves circulation, balance, flexibility, posture, coordination and range of motion. For more information on Tai Chi and cancer and limited research studies see the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center site. While there are only minimal differences between yoga and Tai Chi; Tai Chi is also a martial art.


You may be able to continue with the same exercise plan you had before your diagnosis. Aerobic exercise not only oxygenates the blood and makes you feel good but it gives the immune system a boost. However keep in mind that many cancer patients suffer from CRF, (Cancer Related Fatigue), during and after treatment. This sort of fatigue is not relieved by sleep. In addition to pacing yourself, getting plenty of rest and monitoring your nutrition, exercise can begin at a slower pace, building up stamina as you increase your daily and weekly goals.

Consider some of these suggestions to begin to work up to walking 30 minutes a day.

  • Plan walking trips. Start with a walk to the corner and eventually you’ll find yourself walking around the block.
  • Park your car a little further away from the store than usual and walk
  • Take the stairs instead of the escalator
  • Incorporate exercise into your family outings. A trip to the zoo or the park for a picnic or to the mall for ice-cream involves planned walking.

One of the side effects of beginning any exercise regime is personal empowerment. You have more control over your body and what’s going on as you increase your sense of well being. Exercise not only strengthens your body but also your mind. Keep a journal and concentrate not on how far you think you have to go, but on how far you have come. Before long that five or ten minutes a day will have doubled or tripled.

The American Cancer Society’ s recommendations for regular exercise begins with a warning to discuss your exercise regime with your doctor, as some treatments and therapies may put you at risk (low blood counts, nausea and vomiting, certain medications that make you susceptible to sunburn, etc.).

Currently the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Medicine Department at the National Institute of Health Clinical Center is recruiting adult cancer survivors for a clinical trial, Exercise Study for Cancer Survivors. Specifically the study will be targeting Tai Chi and its effectiveness on psychological health, stress and general well being.

In the News:

The Washington Post. com, April 18, 2008. Exercise Fights Cancer Fatigue. “…researchers found that exercise is more effective at combating cancer-related fatigue than the usual care provided to patients. ”

ScienceDaily, March 2, 2008. Low-intensity Exercise Reduces Fatigue Symptoms By 65 Percent, Study Finds. ” Sedentary people who regularly complain of fatigue can increase their energy levels by 20 percent and decrease their fatigue by 65 percent by engaging in regular, low intensity exercise, according to a new University of Georgia study. ”

ScienceDaily, October 29, 2007. Walking Prevents Bone Loss Caused From Prostate Cancer Treatment Study Shows. “Exercise may reduce, and even reverse, bone loss caused by hormone and radiation therapies used in the treatment of localized prostate cancer, thereby decreasing the potential risk of bone fractures and improving quality of life for these men, according to a new study. ”

MSNBC.com, June 16, 2006. Yoga Can Ease Cancer Treatment Side Effects. “Women going through treatment for breast cancer felt better when they tried yoga, according to one of the first scientific studies of its kind.”

Dana-Farber Press Release, July 13, 2006. Moderate Exercise Improves Survival Rates for Colon Cancer Survivors. “People who have been treated for colon cancer can substantially reduce the risk that the disease will return and improve their overall chance of survival by engaging in regular exercise, according to new research by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists.”

Battling Books:

Sunrise Tai Chi:Awaken, Heal and Strengthen Your Mind, Body and Spirit by Ramel Rones and David Silver (2007).

Healing Yoga for People Living With Cancer by Lisa Holtby (2004).

The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Fitness Plan by Carolyn M. Kaelin, Francesca Coltrera, Josie Gardiner, and Joy Prouty (2006)

Cancer Fitness:Exercise Programs for Patients and Survivors by Anna L. Schwartz and Lance Armstrong (2004)

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  1. Thanks for stopping by Marsha. LOL!!

    Marsha is referring to the Cancer and Nutrition Therapy (see related posts below) post that got picked up by Reuters.

  2. ok then. Wonderful! I’m forwarding to several people. Proud of ya dude!


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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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