- Posted by jdavis on June 14, 2011
From Cancer: 50 Essential Things to Do by Greg Anderson
Hundreds of cancer survivors helped me make an important discovery: Exercise directly correlates with health recovery. Nine out of ten people I interviewed talked about keeping physically active. Even people who were incapacitated or who needed a wheelchair emphasized their commitment to a regular exercise program.
Cancer survivors are markedly different, however, in their exercise goals. Very few set out to run a marathon or become Olympic athletes. Instead, the most common exercise goal among cancer survivors is to experience an increase in energy. In fact, moderate exercise, such as a brisk daily walk, is the only known antidote for fatigue.
I chose walking as my exercise. At first I was so weak that even a couple of minutes of walking were too much. So I began with chair exercises, doing simple arm circles the backstroke movement with my arms fully extended. I’d do ten sets forward and follow with ten sets in the reverse direction. Soon I felt that increase in energy the deeper breathing, the increase in heart rate, and the better skin color.
It wasn’t long before I began to feel stronger. It seemed exercise was working. So I added a few minutes of leg lifts. Soon I was strong enough to put walking back into my exercise routine. Initially, I walked for perhaps five minutes before feeling an increase in energy. But soon that time stretched to ten minutes. Over the months, the exercise periods became longer. I bought an exercise book and added some full-body stretching routines before the start of my walk, and I ended the exercise session with some light calisthenics. I began to feel the combination of physical and emotional regeneration working together to enhance my well-being. You can experience the same.
Today I believe I have found the right balance. Hardly a day passes that I do not walk for at least thirty minutes. I precede the walk with about three minutes of full-body stretches and conclude the session with five minutes of push-ups and sit-ups.
This did not happen overnight. I determined this to be my correct level over a period of two years. Several times I have experimented with exercise beyond the normal thirty-five to forty minute daily routine. I tried walking for an hour each day but found I was experiencing hip soreness. I tried weight lifting only to realize I didn’t enjoy it.
Some people think more exercise is better. A gentleman recently wrote to me to express his opinion that two hours of intense exercise each day is a requirement for cancer recovery. I don’t recommend it. Between the threat of injury associated with extended exercise and the rigid, grinding routine that often results in burnout, I believe more harm than good can come from work-outs that last two or three hours daily.
Instead, I recommend you find a type of exercise that you enjoy. Then practice that routine just until you feel an increase in energy. The benefits include increased flexibility, greater strength, more cardiovascular capacity, weight loss and lower blood pressure. But the psychological benefits are even greater joy, enthusiasm, and mental vitality. What a payoff!
Make exercise part of your cancer recovery program. No matter how long it has been since you have exercised, no matter how incapacitated or confined you are, there are exercises you can do. Exercise will help you get well again.
An Important Thing You Can Do
Exercise just until you feel an increase in energy. This is your only exercise goal. Do the same tomorrow. Keep extending the duration as you build strength and stamina. No more excuses! Take charge. Your body will respond to the “get well” signal.