Jobs at home which get your heart rate up all count. These can include:
- Getting off the bus/tube a stop earlier
- Taking the stairs instead of the lift
- Iron a couple of items, putting them away, coming back and repeating
- Parking at the back of the supermarket car park
There are lots of things you can do. The aim is to get you thinking about little changes and then these little changes can then lead onto bigger ones. Progressing slowly ensures you are being realistic and allows you to plan achievable goals which you can build on.
Before embarking on your chosen activity you need to ensure you have an adequate warm up which can be incorporated into your exercise. It is important to start off gently and gradually increase your range of movement and to get your body warmer and to slowly build up your heart rate. For the cool down, bring the heart rate down slowly by gradually decreasing the intensity/speed of your exercise and not stopping immediately. If you have a slow progressive warm up you may decide not to include stretches however, it is really important to remember to stretch the muscles you have used after exercise. If you are unsure of which stretches to do or how to do them, speak to a physiotherapist or fitness advisor. Any areas of reduced flexibility should be worked on daily, ensuring you are gentle and work slowly without over stretching. Whilst there is no research to suggest yoga and tai chi can help prevent or treat cancer, some people find it makes them feel emotionally and physically better and can help with strength and range of movement.
Once you have established your exercise routine ensure you build on it gradually. Increase the time before intensity until you are doing at least 20-30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a few times a week before making it harder. Strength work which involves repetitions should be done to moderately, working towards three sets of 12-15 repetitions (resting between each set). Ensure you can complete one set before continuing to two and then three sets and only then increase the weight.
Exercise is important for those receiving palliative care. Systematic reviews have shown exercise is feasible with important benefits in physical function, symptoms and quality of life. There can be improvement in fitness, functional ability, emotional wellbeing as well as symptoms such as fatigue, dyspnea and anorexia. Quality of life can be helped by keeping you independent and able to carry out everyday tasks which are important to you. Depending where you are on your pathway, there are different options available. Keep in mind what would work best for you and speak to the team around you who can give you the help and support needed.
Once you have decided what you would like to do, you need to ensure you stay safe. If you are going through treatment and experience extreme fatigue, have a low blood count or are anaemic, you should not exercise. If you are unsure, your medical team will be able to advise you on this. After treatment if you are experiencing extreme fatigue, balance problems, aching, heaviness, swelling, dizziness, shortness of breath for no reason, sharp pain in specific area you should not exercise and seek help from your GP/medical team.
First published: March 2018
Review date: March 2020