Importance of Remaining Physically Fit During Cancer Treatment

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I am very happy to share this guest post from David Haas, who is a cancer support group and awareness program advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. In addition to researching the many valuable programs available to Mesothelioma patients, David often blogs about programs and campaigns underway at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. He also provides creative fitness ideas for those dealing with cancer, while networking to provide better support for cancer patients. I am very thankful David shared this information, as I know it will benefit many. Please feel free to contact David on Twitter at @Haasblaag. Please note that although David refers to Mesothelioma in this post, the concepts he shares may be applicable to any form of cancer. As always, please check with your healthcare professional and oncologist before making any major changes to lifestyle habits.


Although the benefits of physical activity for healthy individuals has long been acknowledged by the medical community, some people may not be aware of the potential extra benefits physical fitness can bring to individuals struggling with cancer. When a cancer patient engages in physical activity, their mood, energy levels and strength are all elevated.

Keeping energy levels elevated can be a struggle for many cancer patients during treatment. When the immune system detects the cancer cells in the body, the system responds by sending extra resources to help fight these foreign substances. Whether a person is undergoing treatment of mesothelioma or other types of cancer, having the body’s immune system battling the cancer is an important weapon in the fight.
Unfortunately, the energy reserves that the body must use against the cancer cells take a toll on even the healthiest of cancer patients. Many patients experience extreme fatigue during their fight against cancer because their body is using up all their excess energy stores in an attempt to eliminate the cancer cells.

Staying physically fit helps to boost these energy levels and increases the body’s metabolism. As a result, the body has more energy to spare and the cancer patient experiences lower levels of fatigue, but can still fight off the foreign substances in their bodies. A related benefit that comes with staying physically active is a decrease in the cancer patient’s likelihood of gaining weight. Although many people experience severe weight loss during treatment, they often gain weight following treatment due to a decrease in energy and the accompanying lack of exercise. By keeping active during and after treatment, the patient will maintain proper weight. More importantly, the patient will be less likely to become overweight, making them less prone to developing secondary diseases associated with obesity.

Additionally, cancer patients such as those battling mesothelioma often experience sadness and other negative mood swings. Although these are perfectly understandable results of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, cancer patients can help combat these emotional side effects through exercise. When the body engages in physical activity, the nervous system releases endorphins. These chemicals are highly efficient mood boosters that also have the benefit of being natural painkillers. The best part of the endorphin rush that follows exercise is that the endorphins will remain circulating in the body for hours afterward.

Another benefit of staying active is the fact that the body will stay stronger. Cancer patients often lose bone and muscle mass. This results in additional injuries from falls and secondary diseases, such as osteoporosis. Engaging in physical activity will help preserve muscle mass and keep the body from becoming frail.

Planning the right workout with the doctors involved in their treatment ensures that the patient is doing everything possible to fight their disease. While no one can claim that being physically active is a cure for cancer, there is no doubt that remaining fit can help improve the overall quality of life for patients.

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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