cW’s resident cancer coach explores the big and small ways you can incorporate movement into your routine while going through treatment.
Issue 14 is all about movement—so what does that look like during or after treatment? Some may say “I don’t have the energy to work out” or “I don’t know how” or “I’m not sure what might be best for my situation.”
But you’re in luck—I am not only a cancer coach but also a certified personal trainer and a 200-hour registered yoga teacher. I have been fortunate enough to teach chair yoga through intermediate classes, as well as train folks for a half marathon and train someone who had never worked out a day in their life with a goal of completing a 5K. I have seen the entire spectrum of physical activities for all levels, so I know there is something out there for everyone.
Cancer is tough no matter what kind of treatment you’re going through. According to an article from the Mayo Clinic, exercise can be your “secret weapon” during cancer treatment. Researchers reviewed 61 studies involving women with stage II breast cancer and found the combination of aerobic and resistance exercises was not only safe but improved health outcomes.
A study from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found a likely explanation of why exercise helps slow down cancer growth in mice. Physical activity affects the metabolism of the immune system’s cytotoxic T cells, improving their ability to attack cancer cells. It has also been found that exercise helps with chemo and radiation side effects such as nausea and fatigue.
“There is something out there for everyone.”
Don’t think you need to hit the gym and grab the heaviest weights available or take a 75-minute hot yoga class. Exercise can be even just light stretching. There are a lot of benefits with stretching—better posture, increased flexibility, better range of motion. For someone going through treatment, stretching can improve your blood flow. Proper circulation in the body allows oxygen to flow better, therefore detoxing your blood, increasing your energy levels and stimulating brain activity. All of these benefits plus many more help you through your treatment and into recovery.
Speaking of oxygen, breathing exercises are also considered beneficial and a form of physical activity. One of my favorite breathing exercises is the counting breath exercise. Let me walk you through it!
This breath cycle can be three breaths or 23 breaths. Start with what works best for you, and build on that foundation at your own pace. Begin in a comfortable position sitting on a chair with your feet on the floor. Laying down is OK, too.
Take two or three deep breaths in and out to relax. Then, inhale deeply and hold your breath while counting to five. After you reach five, exhale for the same count of five, then hold for a count of five.
Repeat as many times as you feel comfortable, but I will encourage you to start with at least four breath cycles. You can play around with your count, too. Once you feel comfortable, I recommend increasing the cycles by one or two every time you come back to your exercises.
The best part about these breathing cycle exercises is not only are they a good form of activity, but the meditative qualities are amazing for the body as well. Meditation improves mood and sleep, and studies have shown that regular meditation will boost your immune system, which is always appreciated during or after treatment.
No matter the point you’re at in your journey, know that there are countless ways to implement movement into your everyday life.
Stay well and enlightened until next time!