Fitness During Chemotherapy

Author: Shannon Miller

Prior to and after my surgery in January, I was asked to take it easy on any kind of workouts. I wanted to follow doctor’s orders but I felt sure that didn’t mean go lie in bed for 12 weeks. I’m not built like that. I need to get at least a minimum amount of movement to feel good.

So I asked some follow up question, because I like to know the reason why I should or should not do something. Prior to surgery the concern was that this baseball sized tumor on my ovary could twist on itself or even rupture. Okay, point taken. But was there any exercise that was safe?

Yes, my doctor said that in my case that walking was very beneficial. Light stretching where I wasn’t twisting or turning my torso, like stretching my arms and legs, was a go. I even did calf raises while brushing my teeth. That was simply out of boredom.

I like to know the rules, there are some areas I’ll push the envelope but this was not an area I planned to mess with, not when the ways I could stay fit were really the ways I already was staying fit, just toned down a bit.

Check out: “Exercise is springboard to recovery for cancer patient”, an article by Janice Lloyd, in USA

After surgery there was a no lifting policy. That meant 8 weeks of no lifting my little boy Rocco. We were so happy he learned to walk about that time and he was just fine walking to hug mommy instead of being lifted. Although I will say bed time is kind of rough when you can’t lift your child. I’m very lucky for a wonderful husband and plenty of friends. During this time I continued to do a lot of walking. I even announced my Walk-Fit program which kept it top of mind for me. I put on my SML pedometer and tried to reach 8-10,000 steps a day. Some days it was only 4,000 but others I hit my 10,000, and I always love the challenge.

We tone our workouts down for pregnancy and it’s beneficial to mom and baby. So why not try a toned- down version of exercise for chemotherapy?

Once I learned I would have to go through 9 weeks of chemo and after all the obvious questions, I asked my doctor how I could best prepare my body for my chemo regimen. He recommended nutrition such a multivitamin, an iron supplement, calcium supplement, eating enough calories, and most certainly getting plenty of fluids – about 65 ounces a day.

Beyond that I wanted to know about exercise. I was cleared to really exercise the same week I began chemo. Great! Well, it actually ended up be great. On my tough weeks, I do a lot of sleeping. But on my easier weeks or days I’m feeling decent I make it a point to walk, do 10-16 minutes of Pilates, 10-15 minutes of light weights (2-3 lbs) and stretch. Not all of it happens every day but I can’t tell you how much better I feel. In fact just taking the steps to the “chemospa” in the morning, 3 floors, and back down when I’m finished make me feel strong and brings a smile as if I’ve achieved something big. And I have. I’m winded as can be but I did it!!!

There is so much research coming out about the benefits of fitness before during and after chemo and radiation. If you haven’t read this article in USA TODAY please do. And please come back to soon. We are taking on this challenge and will be bringing you individual exercises that you can work on at the gym or in the comfort of your own home. Don’t get complacent. Move your body. It will help with the nausea, fatigue, depression, anxiety, stress and even help declutter your chemo brain. So listen to your body on those rest days but when you need a pick-me-up or feel like moving go with it!

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