Creating an Effective Exercise Program Post-Cancer Treatment

Creating an Effective Exercise Program Post-Cancer Treatment

You or someone you love has just completed a difficult and rocky road of cancer treatment. It’s time to get your body back on track, and give it a bit more effort, but where do you start? Read how you can create an effective exercise program post-cancer treatment.

If you’ve been reading this series all along (this is 4 of 4 regarding cancer and exercise), you are privy to my recommendations for post-diagnosis and during treatment exercise. If you’ve been following those recommendations, then of course you understand that exercise is a crucial part to surviving treatment with a strong spirit, keeping the symptoms at bay a bit, and helping your body to recover well. Now that you’ve completed treatment, the kinds of exercises will help your body bounce back don’t change, but the intensity does.

Walking is still in!

Walking programs are an easy and affordable form of exercise, and it’s easy to ramp up to increase the blood flow and heart rate, oxygen flow, and intensity. Outside, try using a health app on your smartphone or other mobile device, to see how far you are traveling (in miles or steps), while also keeping tabs on how long the trip takes you.  Say you’ve gone 2500 steps or about 1.25 miles. How long did it take you? Once you have this information, you can begin to challenge yourself by increasing your pace, day by day.

A sample treadmill program might now look like this:

  • Warm up 3-5 minutes 3.0 mph
  • Raise to 3.3 mph for 5 minutes
  • Raise to 3.5 mph for 5 minutes
  • Cool down for 3-5 minutes at 3.0 mph

Both our time and our intensity increases just a bit. Over time, you can continue to increase, little by little, as your body tolerates.

Strength programs get a bump

Consider increasing the weights you were using while keeping the exercises the same, or attend a weight lifting class where you get guidance from a certified instructor. Let your instructor know a little about your challenges, so they can help you pick appropriate weights and modify as necessary. Or, ask for the help of a certified personal trainer. They will design a program just for your needs.

Stretching is still important

Now is the time to re-enter classes as an option for stretching. Pilates and Yoga will help your core strength, and you will also be working on flexibility. Restorative yoga may still be your choice, or you may think about trying a slightly harder class, like a Vinyasa Flow, where you will be moving through poses with a bit more vigor and trying more difficult poses.

Try adding the following to restore your body and soul:

The Bridge: Lying comfortably on a mat, inhale to prepare, exhale and lift your hips up off of the mat. Hold this position for a count of 5, and slowly lower down. Do 10 of them for core and lower body strength, and a great stretch through your back.

Warrior 2: This yoga pose is poised to give you the gift of strength and alignment. I’ve shown it below on a chair, but of course it can be done without, which will be harder. Position your front foot straight forward, and your back foot perpendicular. Align the front heel to the center of your back foot, or adjust to heel to heel alignment, if that’s more comfortable. Extend your arms out along the same plane, draw your shoulders down and back, and keep your chest proud. Hold this for 5 deep breaths, and repeat on the other side.

Crescent lunge, modified: I love this modification of a classic Yoga pose, which uses pillows or a bolster to help you achieve proper alignment. Yoga blocks on the sides allow you to sit up tall, and pull your shoulders back. Inhale, press through that front heel, and exhale, extend the back leg until you feel a nice stretch in your hip flexor.

Hero’s pose, on blocks: Put two blocks stacked underneath you for support, and try out this relaxing pose. Inhale and lift your chest, while relaxing your shoulders back. Take 5 deep breaths.

Take the time now to really pamper yourself, as well. You’ve had a rough time of it. Now is the time to listen to soothing music, get a massage, try out a new scent in your infuser, or a scented candle, and relax.

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Written by Melissa Abramovich, ACE CPT, NASM CGT, AAHFRP Medical Exercise Specialist at Elite Sports Club-River Glen

Melissa Abramovich went into Personal Training and Group Exercise instruction after successfully losing 140 pounds through healthy diet and exercise. Her desire to help others drove her forward into a career helping others to make healthier choices. She is an ACE certified personal trainer and now also a Medical Exercise Specialist (AAHFRP), helping clients with a myriad of health issues at Elite Sports Clubs. She holds a Bachelor’s degree, and many group exercise related certifications as well.

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