Mesothelioma exercise should be part of your daily life as a mesothelioma patient. If you thought that a mesothelioma diagnosis means you should stop exercising, you thought wrong. According to the best current research available, getting regular exercise is vital to helping you live life as optimally as possible with mesothelioma. Existing evidence strongly suggests that exercise is not only safe and feasible during cancer treatment, but that it can also improve physical functioning, fatigue, and multiple aspects of quality of life.
Mesothelioma Exercise During Treatment
Mesothelioma exercise calls for individual decisions made together with your physician about when to initiate and how to maintain physical activity. Determining factors will include your condition and personal preferences. Some doctors advise mesothelioma patients to wait to determine the extent of their side effects from chemotherapy before beginning or resuming an exercise program.
Exercise during mesothelioma treatment may help protect bone health, muscle strength, and other quality-of-life measures. Mesothelioma patients receiving chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy who already have an exercise program in place may need to exercise at a lower intensity and/or for a shorter time during their treatment, but the principal goal should be to maintain regular activity as much as possible. For those who were sedentary before diagnosis, low-intensity activities such as stretching and brief, slow walks could be started and slowly increased.
For older patients and those with bone metastases or osteoporosis, or significant impairments such as arthritis or peripheral neuropathy, careful attention should be given to balance and safety to reduce the risk of falls and injuries. The presence of a caregiver or exercise professional during exercise sessions can be helpful. When mesothelioma or its treatment necessitates periods of bed rest, then reduced fitness and strength may be likely to occur. Physical therapy during bed rest can help maintain strength and range of motion and may also help to counteract fatigue and depression.
- Many cancer treatment centers now offer yoga classes and other physical fitness options specifically geared to cancer patients. Check whether yours does
- Ask your doctor about prescribing physical therapy to help you maintain a level of physical fitness
Mesothelioma Exercise and the American Cancer Society’s Advice
Mesothelioma exercise won’t get any no votes from the American Cancer Society. The American Cancer Society states that exercise is safe during cancer treatment and advisable as it improves physical functioning and quality of life. They further stress that moderate exercise in cancer patients may also help improve fatigue, anxiety, and self-esteem. It also has been shown to help patients maintain heart and blood vessel fitness, muscle strength and bone health.
Mesothelioma patients getting chemotherapy and radiation who already exercise may need to do so at a lower intensity and build back up slowly. The main goal should be to stay as active as possible and slowly increase your level of activity over time after treatment.
Here are the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for exercising with cancer:
- Engage in regular physical activity
- Avoid inactivity and return to normal daily activities as soon as possible following diagnosis
- Aim to exercise at least 150 minutes per week.
- Include strength training exercises at least 2 days per week
Mesothelioma Exercise During Treatment – Some Precautions
Although mesothelioma exercise offers many benefits, you need to be aware of your current limitations and what specific issues need to be taken into consideration for you to exercise. The effects of mesothelioma treatment may increase the risk of exercise-related injuries. It is important to talk to your physician and other health care providers about your mesothelioma exercise plans before you resume your pre-treatment activities or start new ones. Here are some general precautions:
- Mesothelioma patients with severe anemia should delay exercise, other than activities of daily living, until the anemia is improved
- Mesothelioma patients with compromised immune function should avoid public gyms and public pools until their white blood cell counts return to safe levels
- Mesothelioma patients experiencing severe fatigue from their treatment may not feel up to an exercise program, and should instead try to do 10 minutes of light exercises daily
- Mesothelioma patients undergoing radiation should avoid chlorine exposure from swimming pools to irradiated skin
- Mesothelioma patients with catheters or ports should avoid pool, lake, or ocean water or other microbial exposures that may result in infections, as well as weight training of muscles in the area of the catheter to avoid dislodgment
- Mesothelioma patients with peripheral neuropathies or balance issues need to make modifications such as using a stationary reclining bicycle, for example, instead of a treadmill
Mesothelioma Exercise With Moderate Activities
- Biking on level ground with few or no hills
- Ballroom or line dancing
- Light gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)
- A game of catch, doubles tennis or volleyball
- Using a manual wheelchair
- Walking briskly
- Water aerobics
If there is a sport or activity you love, talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about how to modify it. You are more likely to do exercise if it is an activity you enjoy. Trying to keep some level of physical activity is what matters. Movement is life and life is precious.