Together We Can -- Newsletter of the Joan Karnell Cancer Center

Summer 2002

With Age, Comes Strength
Nutrition in the Senior Years
Taking Care of Others
Walking Towards Better Health
Suddenly a Senior
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Walking Towards Better Health

After cancer treatment, taking control can take on a variety of meanings including beginning an exercise program.

Taking control can be one of the most important aspects of your fight against cancer. Throughout treatment, this can range from identifying a family member or doctor to make health care decisions on your behalf or to researching your disease and various treatment options on your own. In either case, what's important is that you are making decisions to ensure that you will receive the best possible care.

Striving to maintain good health does not end, however, when you finish cancer treatment. On the contrary, at this stage your care requires a much more proactive approach – perhaps more so than you have ever taken before in your life. After cancer treatment, taking control can take on a variety of meanings including beginning an exercise program.

As a cancer patient, you may think that exercising is too strenuous for you. In fact, exercise can be an important way to regain the strength and endurance that you may have lost during chemotherapy. It is yet one more way that you can take control of your life and your health.

How to Begin
First, identify an exercise that appeals to you. Many cancer patients begin with a walking program while others have chosen yoga, tai chi or swimming. It's important to realize that if you exercised before your cancer treatment, you will not be able to begin at the same intensity after treatment.

Similarly, if you are exercising for the first time, recognize that you will need to start slowly, increasing time and intensity as you progress. For this reason, walking is an ideal beginning exercise. You can do it anywhere, any time and with no other investment than a pair of good sneakers.

Begin by assessing your current level of fitness. Think about how far or long you can walk before you are tired. Cut this time or distance in half to determine your starting point. Remember to check with your physician before starting your program.

Developing Your Program
There are three phases to a good walking program. The first is a 5-10 minute warm-up to gradually increase your heart rate. Following the warm-up, begin a period of intense walking (distance and time determined by your fitness level). Phase three is a cool down, generally lasting between 5-10 minutes.Here you'll walk at a slower pace to gradually decrease your heart rate and help to avoid dizziness and lightheadedness.

How fast you walk during phase two will depend on your fitness level, age and medical history. Ideally, you should walk at a sustained pace for 20-30 minutes. If, however, you are just beginning a walking program, you may want to start with just 5-10 minutes of activity. It is important to do what is right for you and your body.

Be Cautious
You should, of course, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine. If during the exercise you experience any of the following symptoms, you should stop exercising and contact your doctor.

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Leg weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Shortness of breath that prevents you from walking and talking at the same time

You should also avoid exercising if you have any of the following:

  • A fever
  • Hemoglobin is less than eight
  • Platelets are below 20,000
  • New leg pain or tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Feeling unsteady or awkward
  • White count is below 4,000 (in this case also avoid gyms,malls and walking outside)

Remember, exercising is just one of many steps you can take toward increasing your activity and improving your health.And, the benefits go beyond your physical health. Exercise can often help alleviate depression, reduce stress and improve your overall psychological outlook. It's an important part of your after cancer treatment program.

~ From Walking for Fitness, published by University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center


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