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The benefits of better physical fitness for all cancer patients have been making headlines for over a decade. Researchers are regularly confirming these benefits for different types of cancer, different forms of exercise, and the variety of treatment programs. Studies have consistently shown that aerobic exercises can be safely coupled with strength training for most patients, and the benefits grow just as fast as the fitness level of the individual.

Every patient will bring a different set of precautions and existing fitness level to the program, and this means that every exercise program should be designed with the circumstances in mind. Many studies have focused on endurance aerobics, such as walking and light jogging. These standard forms of exercise are appropriate for most patients, but patients in special circumstances will benefit more from other types.  Some conditions that call for specially designed workout programs include post-op recovery, limited function or palliative care, and cancer of the bone or connective tissue.

Exercising for Post-op Recovery
Surgical advances in recent years have reduced the invasiveness and sped up recovery for some forms of cancer surgery. Prostatectomy, for instance, can now be performed with micro-incisions that minimize complications related to bladder and sexual function. Other forms of surgery are by necessity still highly invasive and have a long recovery time. The two most common types are mastectomy and surgery for colorectal cancer.

A review of randomized control trials published in 2010 showed that exercise interventions specifically designed for post-op recovery after breast surgery were highly effective at returning range of motion to the upper limbs. The long-held concern that exercise may contribute to lymphedema was also found to be invalid. Patients in these trials reported no complications. Of course, the key to this is responsible use of the specific exercises. A fitness expert can help in teaching these and ensuring proper form, and there are also DVDs available for those without the benefit of an expert. Similar benefits and programs are available for those undergoing other types of cancer surgery.

High Risk Patients
Elderly patients, those with limited mobility, and mesothelioma patients on palliative care can all gain the benefits of physical activity. However, the type of exercise and intensity will need to be more closely monitored to prevent dangerous injuries. The good news is that fitness experts are routinely employed to help in these cases, and the expense is covered by most insurance plans.

Musculoskeletal Cancers
Cancer of the bone or connective tissue is not a contraindication for exercise. In fact, most patients will still be able to use many types of traditional gym workouts. The special consideration here is that fitness programs should include some form of weight-bearing exercise while avoiding high-impact forms. Weight-bearing exercise prompts the body to build new bone and connective tissue, which may be essential in preventing fractures.

In special cases, it is imperative to seek out expert advice on the safest and most effective forms of exercise. This will ensure benefits and minimize the risk of injury.

By: David Haas of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance