Why Exercise?

The many benefits of regular exercise have been known for years, and each year new research data supports this.

Apart from enhancing overall health and quality of life, exercise improves physical functioning of your body, improves efficiency of heart and  lungs, strengthens and firms muscles, and reduces tension, anxiety and depression.

Daily activity is essential! Be active at least thirty minutes every day.

  • Brisk walking is a great way to stay active! Walk at least 30 minutes every day. This can be done in separate 10 minute increments, in necessary.
  • Increase your activity level when you are ready. As you become more fit, increase for 60 minutes or more of moderate, or for 30 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity daily.
  • Limit sedentary habits such as watching television, playing video games, or computer use.

What Systems are Affected by Exercise?

  • Circulatory/cardiovascular
  • Respiratory
  • Immune
  • Nervous
  • Lymphatic
  • Muscular/skeletal

What Types of Exercise Can I Do?

Aerobic: Walking, Biking, Group Exercise classes

Strength: free weights, tubing, body weight (Tai Chi ,Pilates) Flexibility: stretching (Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi)

What are Safety Considerations of Exercising in Public Places?

  • Avoid public gyms and other public exercise facilities if you have had a bone marrow transplantation within the last year and/or if your white blood cell count is low
  • If you are undergoing radiation therapy, avoid chlorine exposure.

Are there Alternatives to Exercising in Public Places?

  • Home based exercise programs
  • Aerobic training: e.g. walking, use of exercise DVDs at home
  • 10 minute stretch exercises if experiencing fatigue

How Can I Begin?

  • Obtain permission from your physician to exercise in an approved regimen
  • Begin exercising with short duration, low intensity work-outs, increasing gradually
  • If you experience fatigue, break up work-out to 5 minutes several times a day or 10 minutes in the AM and in the PM
  • Be sure to stay adequately hydrated.

How to Keep it Up?

  • Do what is fun for you – individualize your workout
  • Develop a support system to keep you on your workout schedule
  • Monitor your body’s reaction to your exercise program

What are the Warning Signs While Exercising?

  • Development of irregular pulse (heart rate or palpitations)
  • Sudden change in heart rate or pulse with consequent change in blood pressure
  • Chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, blurred vision, faintness
  • Fever
  • Paleness or cyanosis (bluish skin)
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

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What About Swimming?

If you have a low white blood cell count, you may have a weakened immune system. This leaves you with an increased risk of getting serious infections. Understand and carefully consider the risks of swimming in any body of water, including lakes, rivers, oceans or even pools.

For persons with a weakened immune system, even minor scrapes and scratches can become easily infected if exposed to waterborne bacteria. In addition, swimming in lakes, rivers and swimming pools can cause accidental ingestion of water. This may increase the risk of getting certain infections like Cryptosporidium.

Bacteria and other microorganisms can thrive in warm water, so hot tubs, saunas, and other communal baths are generally not recommended for people with weakened immune systems. However, if you are sure that the tub or pool is adequately and regularly treated, then they may be safe to use.

It is important to keep in mind that not all people with bone marrow failure diseases have weakened immune systems. Check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about getting in a natural body of water, whether a lake, river, stream, creek, ocean, or pond, or a man-made structure, including a swimming pool or hot tub.

Another thing to consider while outdoors is to wear sunscreen. Some medications may increase your skin sensitivity to sunlight. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if the medications you are taking put you at risk and what precautious you should take.

What Else Is Important to Remember?

Physical activity should be part of our daily lives and it should be fun! It doesn’t have to be high intensity or inconvenient. Disregard the old saying of “no pain, no gain” and replace it with this statement -- “If you don’t have time for your health today, you won’t have health for your time tomorrow.”

If you are interested in beginning an exercise program, there are some things to consider. First of all, tell your oncolcogy team that you are going to begin an exericse program. Let them know that your goal is to engage in moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week. Cardio work on 3 days and resistance work on two days. You will want to rest a minimum of one day in between your resistance workouts. Once they give you the ok here are a few other precautions:

  • If your white blood cell counts are low or if you are taking meds that may impair your immune system avoid public gyms and other public places.
  • Do not exercise if you have anemia.
  • Do not exercise if the levels of minerals in your blood are not normal. This can occur if you have diarrhea and vomiting.
  • If you have osterporosis or cancer that has spread to the bone, keep the resistance work light.
  • If you have balance problems or numbness in your feet avoid uneven surfaces. You might consider using a recumbant bike.
  • Let your medical team know if you have shortness of breath while at rest, or from a small amount of exertion, swollen ankles, or unexplained weight gain.
  • To avoid skin irritation, stay away from chlorine in pools if you are undergoing radiation.
  • If you have a catheter, avoid water. You will also want to avoid resistance training the muscles in the area of a catheter or port, you don’t want to dislodge it. Talk to your medical team.

Just remember, exercising while undergoing treatment is ok. Just use common sense and keep your medical team apprised.