Exercise and Staying Active During and After Cancer
Health care professionals are constantly emphasizing the importance of exercise to maintaining and improving health. For cancer patients, physical activity may be even more important. Physical activity will help retain strength in the muscles and bones that may be lost due to cancer treatment. It may lessen fatigue. Beyond the physical benefits, exercise has been shown to improve self-esteem and quality of life and increase and improve social and emotional well-being. For cancer patients and survivors, exercise and physical activity may prevent or reduce treatment related weight changes and reduce the chance of secondary cancers.
Finding Exercise that is Right for You
Before starting any exercise regimen, it is important to talk to your health care team about what level and type of activity is appropriate for you. Some considerations are immune system health, nausea, dehydration, steroid use, and sensitivity to sun. Ask your health care team about how your treatment may impact your physical activity.
Exercise is not one size fits all. Each person should consider their health goals, physical ability, pre-diagnosis abilities, and most importantly preferences. Be open minded and start slowly. Try low intensity and low stress activities and adjust accordingly. Be mindful and recognize any sudden changes as they may be indicators of problems.
Exercise and Adventure Programs for Cancer Patients and Survivors
There are many non-profits and support organizations that offer exercise and physical activity programs for adolescent and young adult cancer patients and survivors. Many of these are offered at low cost or free of charge.
WASHINGTON, DC AREA
- First Descents organizes life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults (18-39) impacted by cancer
- FD DC-Baltimore Trib: Tribs provide continuous support and the opportunity for connection and year-round adventure experiences at the local level. Programming ranges from single-day rock climbing outings to multi-day river trips, backpacking adventures, and more. As FDtribs are intended to connect young adults impacted by cancer in the places they call home, these experiences are open to anyone living within a three-hour drive of the city.
Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults
- Cancer to 5K: A free, twelve-week training program designed to reintroduce survivors to physical activity
- 4K for Cancer: Creating a community of support for young adults, and their loved ones, impacted by cancer by cycling or running 4,500+ miles across America each summering order to raise money for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.
Life with Cancer
- Life with Cancer offers a variety of levels of exercise and physical activity classes for cancer patients and survivors. From chair-based exercise to belly dancing to cross training. Check out their website to try something new!
- Hope Connections offers yoga and meditation classes for cancer patients and survivors. Check out their website and calendar for more information.
- First Descents organizes life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults (18-39) impacted by cancer.
- Weeklong FD1: A free program (whitewater kayaking, rock climbing or surfing) available to young adults ages 18-39 diagnosed with cancer after the age of 15.
- Camp Koru is a camp for cancer survivors who seek healing and renewal through outdoor experiences in the ocean and mountains (surfing, standup paddleboarding, skiing, and snowboarding).
Send It Foundation
- The Send It Foundation creates outdoor adventures for young adult cancer fighters and survivors, removing them from their cancer experience and creating the space to play, sweat, connect and have fun outdoors (skiing, surfing, backpacking).
True North Treks
- True North Treks takes groups of teens, young adults, and caregivers from across the United States on free backpacking and canoeing treks in beautiful wilderness destinations where they can connect with nature, connect with peers who have been through something similar, and connect with themselves through training and practice in mindfulness meditation and yoga. Treks are typically offered as either a full week in the backcountry wilderness or a long weekend at a beautiful retreat facility with day excursions into nature.
Camp Good Days
- Camp Good Days has been providing weekend retreats and year-round programming for women with cancer, age 18+. More recently, we have also added support for young adults, ages 18-39, with cancer.
- Epic Experience provides free, weeklong, outdoor adventures for those who have been diagnosed with cancer at any age. Trips are region specific but they try to accommodate all applicants.
LIVESTRONG at the YMCA
- LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is a free or low-cost program for cancer patients and survivors in which individuals can participate in group or customized exercises created by certified fitness instructors. Check to see if your local YMCA has a program.
2Unstoppable Making Fitness Connections
- 2Unstoppable Making Fitness Connections will help you meet other breast cancer patients and survivors to have a fitness friend! Get free access to exercise resources and instructors.
More Information and Online Resources
- Physical Activity and the Cancer Patient from the American Cancer Society
- Physical Activity and Cancer from the National Cancer Institute
- Nutrition and Physical Activity During and After Treatment: Answers to Common Questions from the American Cancer Society
- Exercise for Wellness from Cancer Support Community
- The Importance of Exercise in Cancer Survivorship from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
- Physical Activity Tips for Cancer Survivors from Cancer.Net
- Online videos for exercise and yoga from Trekstock