Exercising for wellness

Carol Michaels is a fitness industry leader

Carol Michaels is a fitness industry leader

Staying active when you are living with cancer can be a challenge. Fortunately, healthy physical activity does not have to be intense and strenuous. To help us dive into this topic, this week’s guest blogger is Carol Michaels, a cancer exercise specialist with more than 18 years of experience as a certified fitness trainer, and founder of Recovery Fitness. Visit her blog here.

Studies have shown that physically active cancer survivors have a lower risk of cancer recurrences and improved survival compared with those who are inactive. But how exactly do you begin exercising?

Participants enjoying an exercise program at CSC Greater Philadelphia

Participants enjoying an exercise program at CSC Greater Philadelphia

What often gets in the way between survivors knowing they “should” exercise and actually doing it is an incorrect assumption. I have observed that many people assume that exercise has to be intense and high impact (e.g. running). An effective exercise program for cancer survivors, however, will start gently with slow progression. A good exercise program should take into account:

  • What exercises you already do
  • Your limits
  • What you can do now
  • Your interest and needs
Participants enjoying a yoga class at Gilda's Club Chicago

Participants enjoying a yoga class at Gilda’s Club Chicago

Starting an exercise program is difficult, but so rewarding. All types of moderate exercise are beneficial. Think about the activities or sports that you enjoy and do them. Do you like to walk, ride a bicycle or dance? If so, you can build your exercise program around the activity you find enjoyable.

How can you stick with your exercise program? It is a good idea to set goals.  Some people derive great satisfaction in setting and then achieving goals. This can be done with charts and graphs charts to record your progress and reward achievements. Cancer survivors can show tremendous progress when participating in a consistent well-designed exercise program. You should keep in mind that just like everyone else, you will have good and bad days, so you should be able to adapt. Keep as active as possible, be safe and have fun.

Be sure to consult with your health care team before beginning any exercise program.


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  • Silver Streak

    My doctors all told me to exercise throughout treatment if possible. I was lucky to be going to a place that could modify the exercises to suit the situation as I progressed through treatment. It seemed to be the only consistant thing I did. It also was a stable supportive environment for me. I went 3 times a week. As chemo progressed I had to stop the cardio, but picked it back up during rariation. After treatment I gained strength much quicker than expected. Exercise for me now is to strengthen the immune system –If my body wants to look great too, I welcome that! 65 year old-female