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Exercise and Coping with Cancer Fatigue


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Exercise and Coping with Cancer Fatigue

By Lynne Eldridge MDMarch 31, 2014

Cancer fatigue is something those without cancer can't quite understand. A cup of coffee won't do it. Sleeping in won't take it away. And it seems like you would give up almost anything to be able to stay in bed. Those who have experienced mono, or lived through the first trimester of pregnancy may get an inkling, but otherwise? You can't really understand what cancer fatigue feels like until you've been there.

Not surprisingly, several studies have found that exercise can reduce cancer fatigue both during and after cancer treatment. Easily quoted, but harder to put into practice.

If you're struggling with cancer fatigue talk to your oncologist. There are some "reversible" causes of fatigue that can accompany cancer treatment. Things such anemia, depression, and uncontrolled pain. This article lists some of those reversible causes:

What is Cancer Fatigue?

Unfortunately, cancer fatigue isn't usually alleviated with a prescription for iron tablets. Which brings us back to the one thing that consistently seems to make a difference - exercise.

What kind of exercise helps the most? Aerobic exercise - such as swimming, running, walking at a good pace, washing windows, or an exercise class. It's important to check with your doctor, however, before beginning to exercise.

But how can you motivate yourself to exercise when you're so tired? Here's a few tips.

Take it slowly. Even if you begin with a brisk 10 minute walk, it's a start.

Connect with a friend. It's much easier to stick with a program to exercise if you are accountable to a friend.

Think of activities that involve exercise but don't feel like exercise - things such as a hike in the woods, dancing, walking the dog, or washing windows.

Check with your doctor about exercise programs. Some cancer centers offer exercise programs at a minimal charge.

Last but not least, don't give up. So you felt too tired to exercise for a few days. Don't chastise yourself, but simply begin again.

Do any of you have any tips that have helped you exercise despite cancer fatigue? We would love to hear them.

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