My friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and I have read that exercise for the cancer patient can lessen the effects of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. She has never been a regular exerciser, but she is willing to do anything she can to help with her recovery. Should she begin an exercise program while she is undergoing therapy or wait until she has completed her therapy?

This is a very personal decision and one that can only be decided by the cancer survivor. While there are studies that suggest that aerobic activity and strength training are the keys to reducing the pain and fatigue that accompanies the treatment of cancer, it is very individualized as to whether or not you can engage in these activities during treatment. However, a six-week study of 32 patients rehabilitating from high-dose chemotherapy concluded that those who walked on a treadmill exhibited both higher hemoglobin concentration and maximum physical performance. And none of the 16 patients who walked regularly reported feeling fatigued during their daily activities as compared to 25 percent of those who remained sedentary. A second study of 20 cancer patients who had recently undergone chemotherapy examined their responses to a program of aerobic exercise and strength and flexibility training. After 10 weeks, average strength increased by 43 percent and the time patients were able to spend on the aerobic machines nearly doubled. In addition, the benefits of exercise extended beyond physical measurements. When questioned about their quality of life, participants noted improvements in all psychological areas as well as a reduced perception of pain.

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