Whether it’s walking around the block or biking across the country, experts agree that exercise is good for everyone.
Regular exercise pretty much keeps all your systems — from cardiovascular to digestive to immune — functioning well. Plus, being active keeps your weight in check, and being overweight is linked with an increased risk of colon and other cancers.
At least 45 to 60 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week, according the American Cancer Society, has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Wear a pedometer and try to up the number of steps you take on a daily basis. Your goal: 10,000 a day.
If you already have colon cancer, regular exercise can keep you alive longer — in fact, researchers have found that patients who kept active after an early- to later-stage diagnosis decreased the likelihood of their cancer coming back and had 40 to 50 percent lower mortality rates than patients who did little to no activity.
Study author Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School, recommends the equivalent of walking an hour a day, six days per week at a moderate pace (basically, three to four miles per hour).
What if you simply don’t want to get out of bed in the morning? “I know it’s counterintuitive, but across the board, we have studies that show that exercise decreases fatigue,” says Kimberly A. Stump-Sutliff, RN, MSN, AOCNS, of the American Cancer Society.
If you truly feel like you can’t exercise, that’s okay. “Most people with cancer become very in tune with their bodies,” Stump-Sutliff says. Respect that. However, when you’re feeling good — or at least not completely lousy — get up and exercise. You’ll find that the more you do it, the more you’ll want to do it. “You’re going to see the benefits of it,” Stump-Sutliff counsels, “and you’re going to want to do it more.”
Do What You Love
What kind of activity should you do? Always talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program, but in general, just do something you’ll enjoy — and stick with. If you’ve never exercised before, just get moving. For instance, put more activity into your daily routine:
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Take a walk at lunchtime instead of eating at your desk.
- Go talk to your coworker instead of e-mailing.
- When shopping, bring your bags to the car after each purchase.
- March in place while watching television.
- While doing housework, blast some music and exaggerate your movements.
Other activities are also easily in reach: Take a walk every morning or evening; do some gardening or mow the lawn with a walk-behind mower; try some yoga or tai chi. Even if you have a colostomy, you can still exercise — while you should skip contact sports and heavy weight lifting, a brisk walk or a session of yoga are well within your capabilities. The bottom line: If you don’t want your life to come to a standstill because of cancer, don’t stand still!
—by Leslie Pepper