Exercise can help empower patients with cancer and boost their overall health, though on difficult days, it is equally important that patients give themselves grace, an expert said.
Research shows that exercise can reduce the rate of cancer recurrence, from 20% to 60% less, according to Jen Miramontes, founder of Cancer Champions, a nonprofit organization designed to help patients recovering from cancer treatment.
When it comes to patients with cancer, exercise can reduce stress levels, due to endorphins released during exercise that make patients happier and calmer. Exercise can also improve appetite and sleep, and contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle.
Psychological and emotional triggers can result from exercise as well. When individuals exercise, they tend to want to eat more nutrious foods, and proper nutrition can also promote improved outcomes.
“Patients feel overall empowered, which is probably the biggest component, it's the feeling of, ‘This is something I can do while I'm going through chemo or radiation or even post surgery.’ … For instance with my program, no matter what, where they are in the battle… there are things that we can do if they're not able to stand because they've got balance issues. For example, I've got a seated Pilates, we've got a workout while sitting on the couch (or) while sitting in the hospital bed. Just that empowerment is something that I can control,” explained Miramontes in a recent interview with CURE®.
Exercise should be completed regularly, explained Miramontes.
“The recommendation of 150 minutes of exercise a week, it applies to patients with cancer. That can be 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of more intense exercise,” Miramontes noted. “As far as types, there's different studies out there, but it really is about the patient, where they are in their journey and meeting them at that place. I explain it like the exercise program that I prescribe is very similar to the chemotherapy that an oncologist subsequently prescribes, in that it's very individualized because every cancer and every patient is different. Following that, it's really the same with exercise.”
Meeting the recommended exercise guidelines each week can sometimes be difficult for a patient with cancer undergoing specific treatments.
“The cycle of chemo and radiation can be really, really rough on a patient. If their goal is to go, out and walk 10 to 20 minutes a day, and they're having a really rough day, they've just had infusion, they're super nauseous and dizzy, that's a day off. You give yourself grace and you take that day off,” noted Miramontes.
Cancer Champions focusses on the patient’s needs, Miramontes emphasized.
“I've got years of experience as a cancer exercise specialist, and then I can I create a program for them individually, specifically to them to meet their needs. They (patients) get a coach that comes in and checks in on them, make sure that they're doing what they need to do, and then we progress it from there. Now, there are cancer exercise specialists out there. If this isn't the program for them, I would really highly recommend find a cancer exercise specialist, or a physical therapist that knows their way around cancer. But, it is important to have somebody that knows what they're doing, just because of the different things that they'll experience,” explained Miramontes.
Remember to focus on yourself during the process, and to start slow when beginning an exercise regimen, especially if treatment has just ended, she emphasized.
“The things that I do really, really emphasize are getting outside and breathing. Balance, whether it's standing and holding onto a wall and lifting one foot at a time, those are really important components. But, when you're in the middle of treatment, it's about giving yourself grace,” said Miramontes.
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