Winter weather exercises to try during cancer treatment

January 23, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

When you’re dealing with cancer, the different treatments and their side effects can take a toll on your body. Incorporating a manageable exercise routine into your treatment plan can help you feel better and recuperate faster.

Yet, it’s not that easy to find the right mix of activity during the cold and snowy Midwest winters. Ask your healthcare team about incorporating these forms of exercise as you undergo cancer treatment in the winter:

  • Aerobics. Aerobic exercise can benefit you during treatment by helping you regain strength, boost energy and fight cancer-related fatigue. You can incorporate aerobic exercises during the winter by going to the gym and walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike, swimming, or trying a class like Zumba. Take a walk around your local indoor mall or bundle up and walk outside with a friend. If you don’t have enough energy to do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, try 10 minutes three times a day. As always, consult with your doctor first.
  • Strength/Resistance. Some people lose muscle during cancer treatment. Strength training can be beneficial due to its ability to help build muscle and maintain bone density. If you have the energy and ability to get to the gym during winter, there are plenty of strength training options that can be done safely and in moderation, such as resistance bands, exercise machines and light weights. You can also try strengthening exercises from the comfort of home, such as sit-to-stands from a chair, seated side bends and leg lifts. Ask your doctor what type of strength training options are safe for you.
  • Stretching/Flexibility. When cancer treatment requires surgery, many patients will experience weakness or frailty in the surgical area. Stretching can help you overcome stiffness and stay flexible. Adding stretching to your exercise routine can also help you regain strength and mobility during other cancer treatments. Plus, you can avoid the harsh conditions of winter by stretching in any comfortable setting. Make sure you consult your doctor beforehand, so you don’t do any harm post-surgery.
  • Balance. Making balance exercises part of your physical activity routine is important. Chemotherapy can weaken your bones and prescribed medications during treatment can throw off your sense of balance, leading to dangerous slips or falls. Exercises like yoga can help prevent accidents by improving your balance — and you can avoid the cold by practicing within the comfort of your home. Other exercises like heal-to-toe walking and single leg stands can help improve balance, too. Ask your doctor what balance exercises are safe for you.

You may need to adjust your exercise routine throughout your cancer treatment. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Your recovery may be slow, so start small and try to be patient.
  • Slowly add activities you feel comfortable doing.
  • Set specific, achievable exercise goals.
  • Listen to your body. Balance activity with rest.
  • Track your energy level throughout the day to find your best time to exercise.
  • Check in with your doctor regularly.

Before starting any exercise routine, consult with your healthcare team to develop a plan that is safe and manageable, based on your individual diagnosis, treatment regimen and fitness level.

Learn more about cancer supports services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Related blogs:

Why and how to stay active during treatment

6 ways to fight fatigue during cancer treatment


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