In our last blog the Longevity team examined the concept of exercising with cancer or whilst undergoing treatment. In this blog we will focus on some of the side effects of Cancer treatment and the different ways that exercise can help treat and manage both acute and ongoing symptoms.
What are the common side effects of Cancer treatment?
- Mood Changes
- Sleep Changes/Disturbances
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Loss of Bone Strength
- Loss of Cardiovascular fitness
- Loss of Muscular Strength
- Heart Problems (increased risk of CVD)
How can exercise help treat these side effects and symptoms?
Fatigue is a very common side effect of cancer and treatment. Staying active can help ease fatigue which can still be experienced months after treatment ends. Doing light cardio and strengthening exercises is a good way to help maintain fitness and ensure fatigue is not exacerbated due to deconditioning. Anaemia (low iron) can also contribute to fatigue and is another common symptom associated with cancer treatment. Low intensity exercise combined with a balanced diet has been shown to help manage anaemia. Exercise has also been shown to help improve sleep quality and therefore help manage fatigue.
Exercise helps the brain to release endorphins which make us feel happier and improve our mood. Feeling anxious and depressed during and after treatment is very common for cancer patients. Structured exercise can be a great outlet and help manage these symptoms.
During cancer treatment patients often move less and as a result their muscles get weaker. This can also be made worse by some hormonal and steroidal therapies. Resistance training is important during and after treatment to maintain muscle mass and strength and prevent chronic health conditions in the future.
Cancer treatments such as radiation therapy and hormone therapy can significantly affect bone strength causing them to weaken and putting the individual at higher risk of osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercises are important for minimising the weakening effect on bone and building bone strength.
Lymphoedema requires specialist exercise advise. Early intervention during treatment can reduce the risk of lymphoedema development or minimise the severity.
Peripheral neuropathy (damage to the peripheral nerves) can lead to decreased sensation in the feet and fingers and is a side effect experienced with treatments such as chemotherapy. Decreased sensation can lead to a decrease in balance and falls self-efficacy. Therefore, balance training is an important training modality post cancer treatment.
Reduced activity can lead to decreased cardiovascular fitness and therefore increase the risk of heart disease in the future. Treatments including radiation therapy can cause damage to the heart muscle and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Aerobic training is therefore important to protect the heart muscle and increase cardiovascular fitness.
“Studies show that physical activity can help improve quality-of-life issues, such as body image/self-esteem, wellbeing, sexuality, sleep disturbance, social functioning, anxiety, fatigue and pain.” – Cancer Council
What resources are available?
The cancer council has produced a pdf booklet entitled: “Exercise for People Living with Cancer- a guide for people with cancer, their families and friends”.
It contains further information about the benefits of exercise and has a variety of exercise suggestions and tips.
They have also produced another pdf booklet entitled “Living Well After Cancer– a guide for people with cancer, their families and friends”
How will the Exercise Physiologists at Longevity help you after your treatment?
Your Longevity exercise physiologist will be there to help you with your recovery. They will listen to your story and gain an in-depth understanding of your cancer, treatment, on-going medications and side effects. They will then help you to start exercising through a gradual, individualised program. Your exercise physiologist is there to support you so that you can regain strength, cardio-fitness, balance, overall function and ultimately improve your quality of life.
Exercise can be enjoyable, a social activity, “a time out”, something to look forward to and a great way to take control of your health and future after treatment.
Call Longevity on 1300 964 002 today to get started!
Written By: Ashleigh Mead