It's a proven fact that women who exercise during their cancer treatment experience less fatigue. Further, participating in a regular exercise program helps reduce anxiety and depression, fosters a sense of well being and builds strength and endurance – assets we need in all facets of our lives. As survivors, a life-long commitment to a healthy exercise program will give us a sense of control over our lives that our cancer diagnosis may have stripped away. If we choose to join a group exercise program, we get the extra benefit of mutual friendship and support.
However, when we're facing a cancer diagnosis, exercise may be the last thing in the world we want to add to our list. When it's an effort to get out of bed, the thought of walking, swimming, or strength training might be out of the question.
The key is finding a program that supports our special needs. One that challenges us enough to take us to the next level, but not so daunting that we give up after the first try.
Many communities offer low or no-cost health and wellness programs that provide direct support to cancer patients and survivors. If you're lucky enough to belong to such a community, check out the programs they have to offer.
In addition, there are many exercise and strength building programs on a national level that we can participate in. Two especially friendly programs to cancer survivors are the following:
In 2007, the YMCA and the Lance Armstrong Foundation teamed up to sponsor a nationwide initiative to create a physical activity and wellness program (LIVESTRONG), designed specifically for cancer patients and survivors. Developed by a panel of cancer survivors and public health professionals, the goals of the program are to bring research-tested wellness programs into the communities the YMCA serves. Specifically, the LIVESTRONG program aims to reach those survivors who have completed their cancer treatment and are transitioning back to their "normal life" or their "new normal." To find a center near you, visit their website (www.livestrong.org).
Team Survivor (www.teamsurvivor.org) was founded in 1995, and its mission is to provide group exercise and support programs to women with a present or past diagnosis of cancer. Women of all ages and fitness levels, and in all stages of cancer treatment and recovery, are welcome. There are Team Survivor affiliates located throughout the country. While their programs vary depending on the location, classes and training currently offered include walk/run groups, dragon boat racing, swimming, tennis, yoga, cycling, golf, Pilates, and – yikes! – triathlon training. You can find a Team Survivor group close to you by checking their website.
Whether you choose to join a group, or prefer the quietness of solitude, the best thing you can do for yourself is to maintain a regular exercise schedule and routine.