Category: Exercise For Cancer

Benefits of Tai Chi as Exercise for Cancer

Tai Chi was introduced into my exercise program before I was diagnosed with cancer.  I was living on Vancouver Island and could see myself doing tai chi on the beach.  It was fabulous.

taoisttaichiAs a dancer, tai chi fit my psyche well.  It’s a moving meditation, much like dance.  The gentle flowing movements, so graceful when done well, work the whole body.  The chi (energy force) winds its way through your torso and out through your limbs creating a full body workout, internal and external.  No pain, no stress, no push.  It just is.

Once diagnosed with cancer, I was so thankful I had learned tai chi because I credit the movement with keeping my body supple and strong while going through treatment. It was gentle enough for me to do on the days I had low energy. The movement also helped move the lymph fluid through my arm after radiation and kept me from getting frozen shoulder.

At night, when I went into stress mode, I would quietly go through the gentle movements, expending excess toxic emotional energy which then allowed me to sit quietly in meditation.  I slept!!

It’s a practice you can do for a lifetime, in any circumstance, anywhere, at any age, in any physical condition.  I recall a lady coming to class who had Parkinson’s.  She would sit at the back and work through the moves from her chair.

In summary, Tai Chi is a very beneficial exercise for cancer.  It will help improve strength, provide mediation, be a gentle full body workout, reduce your risk of lymphedema, help prevent frozen shoulder, help you feel better, stand taller physically and emotionally as well as sleep better.

Exercise is a Key Component in Cancer Healing

yoga_plein_air_plageThere are a few key elements that are always recommended in a cancer healing program.  They are meditation, journaling, diet and exercise.  Research also suggests engaging in exercise to prevent cancer.

Given that cancer cannot survive in an oxygenated environment, it makes sense that exercise would be incredibly important for anyone diagnosed with cancer.  Exercise oxygenates the body.

There are many ways you can incorporate exercise into your regime.

  • One of the simplest is walking.  You can adjust your pace and length of walk according to how you feel no matter whether you are in the treatment phase or post treatment.
  • Join an exercise class – yoga, tai chi, dance, gentle aerobics – and be encouraged by the social aspect and support of others.
  • DVDs – there are many programs available to be used in the privacy of your own home.  This gives you flexibility of time and can be done if mobility or transportation to a class is an issue.

The main thing is to get moving.  It’s easy to get stuck in a ‘I don’t feel well’ mode.  Getting out and moving your body will dispel this feeling and help you move through your healing program much quicker.  Having the company of a buddy is also great incentive and makes exercising more fun.


Exercise for Body/Mind/Spirit Healing

tai chiMany studies have been done on the benefits of exercise to prevent cancer and also facilitate healing from cancer.  Exercise for anyone is beneficial, but what kind is most helpful when going through cancer – and even after treatment is finished.

Some of the best forms of exercise for achieving the goals listed below in a gentle way are yoga (look for yoga forms that are gentle – i.e. restorative yoga) and the ancient Chinese way of staying healthy, tai chi.

Yoga and Tai Chi provide many benefits of exercising during and after cancer, such as:

  • increasing range of motion
  • stretching out scar tissue
  • reducing the risk of lymphedema
  • increasing self esteem
  • increasing energy
  • improving posture and
  • increasing strength.

Both of these forms of exercise to prevent cancer or heal from cancer can be done in a group or alone, inside or outside, without any equipment and special attire.  These, together with walking, are easy, gentle yet incredibly effective and efficient ways to create an exercise program that will feed your body, mind, and spirit.


Cold, Colder and Coldest Winter Ever – Makes Exercise Difficult

Not sure what winter is like where you live, but I think a lot of people are experiencing an unrelenting winter.  Lots of freezing cold with snow and ice.  When it warms up, the snow melts during the day.  Then at night, it freezes.  When the snow comes again, it just covers up the ice making for treacherous sidewalk and road conditions.

For those of us who like walkinPractising-Yoga-at-Homeg, it sure has put a damper on our enthusiasm.  Two people close to me have broken legs by slipping on the ice.  My dog limps at night on her surgery supposedly healed leg from slipping and sliding on the ice.

Okay, enough about ice.  The point is exercise still needs to happen.  Whether trudge to the nearest mall to do your mall walking or stay at home to do tai chi or yoga inside, you need to stay active to keep the energy and oxygen coursing through your body.  Oxygen heals..

Here’s to spring  – when it finally arrives.  We’re about to have a warming trend in Alberta in a couple of days.  Will be absolutely wonderful to take off a few layers and get outside in the fresh air.  My dog will love it too.

Can Exercise Aid in Preventing Cancer?

WORLD TAI CHI DAY 2004There is a lot of research on this topic.  For sure, exercise is healthy for everyone.  Our bodies are designed to move and stay active.  This is what’s sad about today’s lifestyle – we spend way too much time sitting – in the car, in front of computers, watching TV, etc.  You know how much you sit.  It’s being identified as the ‘sitting crisis’.

Exercise aside from strengthening our body, keeping us flexible so we move with ease and improving posture, it builds our oxygen capacity.  Cancer cannot survive in oxygen.  It would stand to reason that having a body whose cells are full of oxygen would discourage the growth of cancer cells.

One great exercise I still do that helped me through cancer was tai chi.  It was slow, graceful, and gentle.  Yet at the same it, it connected my body/mind/spirit, created flexibility, and became a moving meditation.  I loved its ability to calm me down..  I now teach tai chi and do it regularly along with walking and teaching dance classes.  At my age, 70, I intend to keep agile and able to keep up with my grandchildren, plus travel and do all the things I enjoy in my life.  What about you?

Overcome Challenging Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

Going through cancer treatment – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – is a challenge in and of itself.  What is often not known upfront are some of the side effects that accompany these treatments.  Preparing ahead of time can help you create coping strategies and reduce the stress.

1. Lymphedema – this can happen after node dissection – either upper body or lower body.  Once lymph nodes are removed, the lymph transit system is impaired causing a backlog of fluid which creates uncomfortable swelling.  Taking precautions to reduce your risk of getting lymphedema are critical as there is no cure – only management.

2. Early Menopause – this can be triggered by chemotherapy.  For some, regular periods come back, but for most, they do not.  Since hormone replacement therapy is not advised for breast cancer patients, finding suitable herbal solutions can help.  Also, look for wicking clothing – wicking nightwear and daywear – to alleviate some of the discomfort of sweating with the accompanying chill afterwards.

3.  Fatigue – exercise is the antidote.  As strange as it may sound, exercising will help you increase oxygen uptake, increase blood flow, reduce your risk of lymphedema and elevate self-esteem.  Something as simple as a brisk walk.  Or, join an exercise class with a group that understands your cancer needs – Healthy-Steps. Find a buddy to join you, especially for the days you don’t feel like getting out there.

You will get through this time much easier with some thought to coping with cancer ahead of time.

A Quiet Walk in Nature for Healing

Throughout my life, a walk in nature has always been what I needed to restore balance and calm when life got too busy or overwhelming.  No matter what city I lived in, I would always gravitate to the green areas or water.

I recall one instance while I was going through radiation treatment when I set out to take a Tai Chi class, couldn’t find the studio, and ended up at the ocean.  It was obvious to me that was where I was supposed to be. Even the night sweats were more bearable that day.

Walking along the shoreline, my thoughts were soothed by the quiet sound and rhythm of the waves breaking on the shore . . . the rhythm of the universe.  Worries washed away, fear abated, and I felt becalmed in the midst of the cancer drama that had become my life.  Being close to nature affirmed that there was a bigger picture, a universal presence which I call God and a knowing that healing and help was available to me if I asked.

Now, many years later (since the fall of 1990), I am still here.  I am still walking in nature to find peace and calm.  The steady rhythm of my stride, the swing of my arms, my breathing, all create the essence of a walking meditation – away from distraction allowing inner thoughts to be heard – thoughts and insights that are often drowned out in the roar of modern society.

Ah – To Dance, To Feel the Joy

Dance is fun, brings great joy not only to the participant but also those watching.  It can be an awesome workout with low impact – great for all ages.

Evidence the age range (10 – 78) of the particpants in this Flash Mob Dance I choreographed for our Wellspring Calgary fundraiser ‘Toupee For A Day’.  It was such a fun project.  Everyone had a great time, definitely wanted to do it more than once, and as you can see from the crowd watching, shared their joy and love of dance.

How Does Exercise Affect Lymphedema?

Exercise plays a key role in both reducing the risk of lymphedema as well as the management of lymphedema. 

Lymphedema is caused by an interruption or restriction in the flow of lymph fluid following surgery.  Most people are aware of arm lymphedema caused by breast cancer surgery, but leg lymphedema can be a side effect of prostate or abdominal surgeries.   Torso lymphedema can happen from neck and throat surgeries.

There are several ways to reduce the risk of lymphedema, however, exercise for lymphedema is extremely helpful and well documented by research. 

Here are some important things to remember when exercising:

  • Open the lymphatic system first.  The lymphatic drains are located by your throat and will allow the flow of lymph fluid which will increase with the exercise.  The Healthy-Steps program (formerly The Lebed Method) has a wonderful Lymphatic Opening exercise and program for those who may be at risk for lymphedema.
  • Make sure the exercise movements are slow to medium speed and smooth flowing versus jerky.  After surgery, especially if lymph nodes have been removed, the lymphatic transport system will be compromised and could become congested if the flow of lymph fluid is too fast.  Think of a superhighway where the traffic is rerouted from four lanes to one lane.
  • Wear proper compression garments which are designed to assist the flow of lymph fluid (i.e. lymphedema sleeve) during exercise if you already have lymphedema.  This includes the gauntlet (glove) to ensure the build up of fluid does not travel to the hand.

The Benefits of Fitness During Cancer Treatment

Physical fitness is probably the last thing you might thinks of when diagnosed with cancer.  Yet it is critically important to stay fit for a number of reasons, because exercise –

  • Combats fatigue and increases energy.
  • Increases the amount of oxygen in your system.  Cancer does not fare well in an oxygenated environment.
  • Exercise for lymphedema reduces this risk by keeping the flow of lymph fluid moving through your body.
  • Stretchs out scar tissue caused by surgery and increase the range of motion in joints that might be affected by radiation.
  • Increases a sense of self-esteem and keeps depression at bay – often a side effect of cancer treatment.
  • Promotes relaxation and sleep – very important and sometimes difficult states to maintain.

Already I think you are getting the message.  Whatever your choice of exercise – walking, yoga, pilates, cycling, tai chi – get moving, make new friends and create a fun environment for  yourself.  It will go a long way to making the cancer journey easier.