"Fitness is about so much more than exercise. It's a catalyst for positive change, and it affects every aspect of your life."

Fighting Cancer with exercise

Physical fitness is important to maintaining good health. Fitness can even play an important role for men and women who are not in the best of health, including those suffering or recovering from cancer, helping them achieve a full recovery and preventing a recurrence of the disease.

It has been well documented that exercise can help protect humans from developing many types of cancer. In the past, however, those suffering from cancer have been advised to rest in order to improve the chance for recovery. Recent medical studies indicate that in the same way it protects against the disease, exercise can help the body fight off cancer.

There is no evidence that exercise will  cure cancer. Instead, it will help the body take on the fight. As with any infection, cancer is a foreign invader. This is also true with mesothelioma, which is caused by exposure to asbestos. Both cancer cells and asbestos fibers will travel through blood vessels and tissue membranes, spreading the respective diseases throughout the body. The center of the battle is in the lymphatic system, which produces white blood cells, and in antibodies that are also produced by the body. However, this places a heavy burden on the immune system, using up both energy and calories and wearing down the body. This is when exercise is of utmost importance.

Exercise will raise the energy level of cancer patients, increasing their metabolism and strengthening those vital body systems. The increase in metabolism and the processing of enzymes will help eliminate many waste products and even the by-products of the disease. Physical activity will also produce endorphins that can help the patients feel better. In addition to raising the energy levels of cancer patients, exercise can reduce the loss of muscle related to advanced stages of cancer and contribute to the patient’s overall well-being.

Patients who are undergoing chemotherapy can actually improve their blood count readings with exercise, while reducing the side effects of the treatment itself, which can include nausea. There is also an important psychological benefit of physical activity, in that it can reduce depression and anxiety often experienced by cancer patients. Through these combined effects, exercise can actually improve the cancer survival rate and help prevent the disease from returning. One study showed that aerobic and resistance exercise improved the self-esteem and physical fitness of breast cancer patients who were undergoing chemotherapy. Physical activity even helped the patients achieve higher rates of completion in their treatment.

Fatigue can overwhelm anyone suffering from cancer. Exercise can reduce fatigue related either to the disease or to the treatment and give patients the sense of hope that they can recover from what is afflicting them. Exercise also promotes good sleeping habits, which is important for the patients of both cancer or mesothelioma, as the body needs rest during its most difficult times.

Physical activity need not be strenuous to be beneficial. Such activities as walking down the driveway, taking the dog on its walk, mild yard work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator to reach the second or third floor can help raise one’s metabolism and fight off disease. The amount of exercise will of course depend upon the patient’s physical condition, the type of cancer and the method of treatment. Over time, patients may be able to work up to a level of exercise that is comfortable and fits their own needs.

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