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Exercise: Stay fit to fight cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, being overweight or obese raises your risk of cancer. Excess body weight is thought to be responsible for about 8 percent of all cancers in the United States and about 7 percent of all cancer deaths. But getting fit isn’t just about weight loss. Exercise also helps your body regulate hormone levels and speeds up digestion, reducing the amount of time potentially harmful substances remain in your colon.

You don’t have to run a marathon. Even light exercise is better than no exercise. Just get up and move for a few minutes every hour, take a flight of stairs instead of an elevator or choose a parking space at the far end of the lot. If a physical disability limits your mobility, many exercises can be modified to meet your needs. Start small. Chances are, once you start to feel better, you’ll want to enhance your routine.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. But don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. Devoting 10 or 15 minutes at a time is all you need to lower your risk of cancer and raise your energy level.
  • Moderate exercise: Walking, doing yoga and mowing the lawn are examples of moderate exercises.
  • Vigorous activity: Running, jogging, cycling and swimming are examples of vigorous activities. You should be working too hard to hold a conversation.
  • Strength training: Building muscle helps boost your metabolism. Perform strength-training exercises at least twice a week in addition to your other activities.

Yoga for body and mind

Yoga can help you gain strength and flexibility, but its benefits are more than physical. Yoga uses a combination of movement, meditation and breathing that can help you stay centered and grounded. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, an integrative approach — yoga in combination with traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and surgery — can help you manage symptoms and treatment effects including:

  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Pain
  • Difficulty focusing

Talk to your doctor before signing up for a yoga class. But since classes can be tailored to any ability level, you should be able to find one that’s right for you, whether it’s gentle movement, moderate exercise, vigorous activity or strength training. 

Your scale doesn’t tell the whole story

Don’t be upset if you don’t see results on the bathroom scale — or if you’re working out and the numbers are rising. Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you’re losing fat and building muscle, you might actually gain some weight. But that doesn’t mean you’re not getting healthier. Chances are you’re feeling better and looking better, too. Congratulations! Keep up the good work.


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