In my previous post, I talked about some common contributors to cancer-related fatigue (CRF), a prevalent symptom among those with cancer and those undergoing cancer treatments. Somewhat paradoxically, studies support moderate exercise to help manage cancer-related fatigue. Upon closer inspection, this makes sense. The negative physiological processes associated with cancer and cancer-treatments, as well as general deconditioning caused by decreased physical activity from not feeling well, lead to a person having less ability to perform physical tasks that once may have been simple. So it makes sense that moderate exercise can help you feel a little better and make everyday tasks less taxing.
Here are some guidelines when figuring out what moderate exercise is best for you:
- Make it something you enjoy (duh). Now is not the time to punish yourself with an activity that doesn’t speak to you or to push yourself to your limits by training for that marathon you’ve always felt like you should do.
- Listen to your body and be kind to yourself. If you are an athlete, this may be especially hard. But this is not a “no pain, no gain” situation. If you love running, go ahead and try it, but don’t beat yourself up if your usual 7-minute per mile pace becomes a gentle jog interspersed with walking. Furthermore, a ten minute gentle walk is a great achievement…an hour long sweat-fest that makes you feel utterly exhausted afterwards is not what we’re after.
- Pace yourself. And I’m not just talking about with exercise. Be mindful of pacing yourself with your normal, daily activities. Rather than planning on getting ready in the morning, then running errands, then meeting up with a friend for coffee, give yourself time between activities to recuperate. And try planning your most strenuous activities early in the day, when you’re likely to be more rested.
I know this mostly sounds like common sense, but I think that when you’re not really feeling well, it’s easy to be hard on yourself. Sometimes you need to hear from someone else to take it easy. I am more than happy to answer more specific questions about exercise and activity. Please ask away in the comments section!