Gyms have closed due to COVID-19 and many people are now doing exercises in their home. Below are some moderate exercises that you can do that will allow you to move. Check out some of these exercises below and what their benefits are.
“There are so many benefits of exercise, and now with the COVID-19 pandemic and everyone staying home, it’s still so important to move and to exercise — maybe even more so,” says Cari Utendorf, PT, DPT, MBA, CLT-LANA, an OSUCCC – James rehabilitation services manager and physical therapist.
Benefits of moderate exercise
The list of benefits of exercise for cancer patients is a long one and can include:
- Reduction of cancer recurrence risk
- Combating fatigue as well as joint and muscle pain
- Reduction of depression symptoms
- A decrease in scarring and tightness from operations, and improvement of lymph flow
- Improvement of bone density and strength
- Reduction in the likelihood of lymphedema onset by 70 percent among women who have had five or more nodes removed
- Reduction in the likelihood that lymphedema will worsen by 50 percent
“A lot of patients with cancer can get into a bad cycle. They’re so fatigued and tired from their treatment, and the temptation is to lie on the couch all day,” Utendorf explains. “That can lead to even more fatigue and depression. It sounds counterintuitive, but when you’re fatigued, exercise can actually reduce fatigue and it can reduce depression.”
Utendorf advises all cancer patients to check with their doctors before starting to exercise. Ask about any precautions you should follow and/or types of exercises you should avoid or minimize. Always start slowly, with light weights and fewer repetitions. The goal is to do something every day and slowly increase how long and far you go or how much you lift.
The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a week plus two resistance training workouts per week. “If you can get outside and walk, that’s a great cardio exercise,” Utendorf says. “You can start with a five-minute or 10-minute walk, do a couple a day and build up from there.”
For resistance training, one, two, or three-pound weight is ideal. If you don’t have one at home, a can of soup or beans is a good replacement.
“I always encourage people to find something they like to do, so it will be fun,” Utendorf says. “Like yoga, Zumba or Tai Chi, for example. Now, there are so many online classes you can access and do at home.”
Utendorf recommends this upbeat and musical 1-mile walk video.
James Exercise Program
To help cancer patients get moving, Utendorf and members of her team have developed The James Advanced Exercise Program. Here are the basics (specific exercises are explained and diagramed here).
Warmup: This should last approximately 10 minutes and include exercises that raise your heart rate, such as walking, biking or using an elliptical machine. If you can’t leave home, jogging or marching in place or dancing to music will work.
Stretching: Do a few different stretches to loosen up your joints and muscles. Hold each stretch for 15 seconds per side.
Core exercises: These strengthen the stomach muscles, which helps with balance and injury prevention. Try and repeat these exercises — including abdominal curls, bridging, and leg lifts, among others — 10 times.
Weight training: Start with three pounds or less, and when you can comfortably do each exercise 20 times (2 sets of 10 repetitions), add a pound. Use the correct form and breathe out when you push, pull, or lift. Examples of lifts you can do include chest press, chair squats, calf raises, and arm curls.
Weight training is especially important “because some cancer treatments can lead to bone mass loss,” Utendorf says. “We know from studies that regular weight training, even with moderate weights, can reduce bone-mass loss and help strengthen bones.”
Cooldown: Repeat each stretch and hold for 30 seconds.