Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mental Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients

A guest Article by Liz Davies

Many people who have cancer may be inclined to rest and avoid strenuous activity, but recent studies suggest that cancer patients should increase, not reduce, their levels of physical activity. Researchers have examined the relationship between rehabilitation, quality of life, and exercise in cancer patients and reported positive findings.

People suffering from cancer have a difficult time getting their energy back and strengthening their self-confidence. Exercise has both mental and physical benefits. Regular physical activity lowers the risk of cancer, diabetes and stroke by up to 50 percent. Studies indicate that exercise can also boost self-esteem, sleep quality, mood, and energy, and reduce the risk of depression, anxiety, stress, and dementia.

The Psychological and Emotional Benefits of Exercise

Physical activity has many of the same benefits for cancer patients as it does for healthy people. Some of these benefits include leaner body mass, greater muscular strength, increased energy, and less weight gain. Exercise reduces fatigue and boosts self-confidence. During cancer treatment, it helps prevent the decline of physical function without increasing fatigue. After treatment, exercise helps the body recover faster.

Exercise Promotes Well-Being

Exercise helps ease depression and anxiety by releasing neurotransmitters and endorphins. These chemicals released by the brain act as natural painkillers and help reduce pain. Physical activity increases body temperature, which may have calming effects. The physiological benefits of exercise are also caused by increased blood flow to the brain. Cancer patients who exercise regularly are able to find meaning and importance in their lives.

Types of Exercise That Can Help Cancer Patients

Every person's situation is different. Cancer patients should do flexibility exercises, aerobic exercises, and resistance training. Types of cancers like lung cancer and mesothelioma causes patients to look towards these types of exercises to work on their lung capacity. The most popular types of aerobic exercises include swimming, walking, and jogging. Flexibility exercises help maintain mobility. Many people diagnosed with cancer lose muscle and gain fat during treatment. Some cancers can lead to body wasting and increase the risk of bone fractures. Resistance training helps patients maintain a healthy weight and reduce muscle breakdown. Yoga and meditation can help them achieve optimal levels of mental health.

Just like healthy people, cancer patients should do at least 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week. This amount of exercise has a potential role in reducing cancer recurrence and increasing survival. Animal studies have shown that physical activity increases the levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. It also helps brain cells survive longer and protects against Alzheimer's disease.

Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April.


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