Throughout the treatment and recovery process, cancer patients can use nutrition and exercise to strengthen their body and manage their side effects. Proper fuel and physical activity can help patients maintain a healthy weight and muscle mass, counteract fatigue and release anxiety.
Patients generally need to increase their calorie and protein intake to meet the increased energy demands of cancer recovery. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins should make up most of a patient’s diet. These foods are packed with the vitamins and minerals that can stimulate natural healing processes.
Certain foods can also help control treatment-induced side effects. For example, high-fiber foods like beans and raw vegetables can correct constipation, while low-fiber foods like white bread and eggs can help counteract diarrhea. Juicing can deliver high amounts of nutrients and focusing on plant-based meals can boost the immune system.
Physical exercise can also help cancer patients with certain conditions. Light to moderate cardio can help patients maintain heart and lung health, while strength training prevents excessive loss of muscle mass. Patients can also use exercise to boost their appetite, beat fatigue and even diffuse anxiety.
While most cancer patients can reap these benefits during recovery, there are certain precautions they must take when changing their exercise or nutrition habits. Surgery is one major contraindication for strenuous exercise routines, but patients can work closely with their medical team to design an exercise and nutrition program that works for their situation.
Creating an Exercise Routine After Surgery
Most curative cancer surgeries require a recovery time of six to eight weeks. During this time, patients should focus on resting and eating well rather than working out. However, after this period is over and the body has had time to heal, patients can re-introduce exercise back into their life.
The following tips can help make it a safe and smooth experience:
Start with small weights or short times and gradually increase them as you become stronger.
Stop moving if you become dizzy or breathless, or experience abnormal pain.
Choose gentle exercises like yoga or walking in favor of more strenuous sports.
Consider exercise classes designed specifically for cancer patients.
Aim for roughly 150 minutes of activity once you are strong enough, which is in accordance with the American Cancer Society’s guidelines.
Before launching your post-surgical exercise routine, be sure to discuss your plans with your oncologist and your surgeon. Never begin or make changes to your exercise plans before obtaining clearance from your doctor. Applying the above nutrition and exercise tips and guidance from your doctor will help you to safely enjoy the benefits of exercise and nutrition as you heal.
Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for The Mesothelioma Center. One of her focuses is living with cancer.