Before finding out I had cancer, I was eager to work out and enjoyed various activities. But over the course of my journey, working out became less enjoyable. I had lost my motivation and became frustrated in some aspects because my body was not the same. I felt I had lost my confidence. My spark to jump up and work out was gone. I soon learned that I had to move when I was ready. Healing takes time and this was all new. Nobody could force working out on me. In my own time and when God said I was ready, I knew I would begin to get my body back to what it once was, if not better than it was before. God allowed me to use the down time in my recovery to really reflect and focus on healing my body internally. Once I reached the year of recovery I made it a point to begin slowly striving towards my goal by walking. Thankfully I did start off slow because my body wasn’t able to tolerate working out in a high capacity. So much disease is virtued from our health. With knowing that, I made the choice to do some form of exercise daily. A year and a half later, I began pushing myself back towards my goal weight. It’s a process just like anything in life and success takes time. With resilience and being relentless, I am now able to exercise daily using resistance bands, dumbbells, and walking a lot more! It was important to seek God for the steps and guidance of what to do and how to do it. Now that I am on the other side of my cancer journey, I look forward to using my talents and tips to help others. Exercise is a blessing, not a chore. I work out because I'm grateful I physically can! It is my hope that you will feel inspired and spread the word! I can now say that I am an active certified Xtreme Hip Hop Step Aerobics Instructor, Xtreme Burn Instructor, and a Barre Above instructor. I live to take care of my body and share that same energy with others!!
It’s important to maintain healthy habits after surgery. Exercise during and after cancer are imperative to your body's health.
The four areas of fitness in which I focused on were the same as before my cancer journey: stretching, balance, strength training, and aerobic exercise.
For some cancers that require surgery, people may feel particular weakness in certain parts of their bodies. For example, brain cancer often made me weak and dizzy, so getting up to move around would often make it worse.
But later in my recovery I was guided with gentle neck stretches and shoulder rolls to help with the stiffness. I was also enhancing my range of motion by doing an exercise in which I would face a wall and “walk” my arms up the wall to increase my range of motion.
When I would stretch, I would only go to the point of tightness, not pain. The goal was to help and not harm in the recovery. Doing these stretching exercises for the areas that I had surgery helped me regain mobility in that area.
However, cancer patients no matter the type, should consult with your doctors before undergoing stretching exercises and ensure you are cleared to do them. Exercise is a necessity for cancer patients and survivors! Sometimes the condition you may be in can trigger some unique challenges, so take it slow.
Balance was once easy for me with my background of work. Stretching and balance are the basics to any workout to be successful. For some cancer patients, drugs can impair balance. Anyone on chemotherapy with decreased bone mass, it takes only one fall to break a bone within your body. So again, we must take things slow and have someone spot you if you need to.
Both cancer patients and survivors should make sure balance exercises are a regular part of your fitness routine. Simple exercises such as walking a narrow path (putting one foot in front of the other, as if walking a tightrope) or heel raises (standing in place and raising each heel up and down) can improve balance. Some other balance exercises are single-leg stands, in which a person spends 60 seconds standing on one leg, and grapevines, which involve stepping sideways and putting one foot in front, and then in back, of the other.
Balance exercises are generally safe to do even right after cancer treatment.
Now only after a year or so, did I begin to reintroduce myself to strength training. I wanted to take my time and there was no rush.
Strength training was useful thereafter because it improved muscle tone and fights muscle loss that can occur with aging. It can be done with dumbbells, barbells and weight machines. Being that I was 1 yr in remission at the time I introduced my body to this again, I kept it simple with dumbbells 5-8lbs.
It’s imperative to know that bone density and muscle for an average person are different from those of a cancer patient. My doctor shared with me that Chemotherapy can cause women to lose as much bone density in a year as the average woman would lose in a decade. Sounds so extreme but I believed it just from the stories patients shared with me. Hence why I think strength training is paramount. As muscles become denser, they're going to put more pressure on the bone. It can be helpful to try to maintain your bone density through strength training and weight-bearing exercises such as walking, which will help you maintain bone density.
Weight training won't increase bone density, but it will at least help to maintain it. Again, if you're undergoing treatments or a recent post-op patient, you should consult your doctor before undergoing a weight training regimen of any kind.
Aerobic exercise gets the heart rate up and includes exercises like walking, bicycling, and running. By alternating cardiovascular exercise with strength exercises, you can increase lean muscle mass, decrease fat, and increase the body's metabolism.
Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of cancer developing or recurring within the body. With that being said, being overweight is a risk factor.
In my journey, I found different forms of cardio (step, dance, running) to help me feel better after going through cancer treatment. For me, being fit improved my recovery after such a process. Some cancer patients are strong enough to even engage in aerobic exercise while undergoing treatment. However, if you were like me, most cancer patients don't have enough energy to do 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise a day. But as you may know in fitness, there are modifications to almost every exercise. With that in mind, patients could do 10 minutes of exercise three times a day to get the same effect.
Walking exercises are generally safe right after a person has undergone cancer treatment. When I was undergoing treatment I would walk laps in the mall and take frequent breaks when I became winded.
All of us face different challenges. Some may not desire to work out, but what I knew then is what I know now-I was going to do what I could to prevent cancer from returning.
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The secret to success is having the courage to begin. Love yourself, love where you've been, and love where you are going. Know that every setback is a setup for a comeback! Stay dedicated and committed despite what you've gone through! Choose to Live and Thrive on!