Dog Days of Summer and Exercise

dogdaysofsummerimage credit: Good Search

Think of yourself as a dog. (I mean this in a good way!)



Lie down.

Good boy/girl!

Want to go exercise? Let’s go!

Here’s some more water.

During cancer treatment, you’ll want to exercise but may find you lack the energy and strength. Especially if your treatment is in the dog days of summer. I was grateful my treatment was in the summer. As my iron levels dropped, I was always cold—until hot flashes kicked in, then I was back to being cold. Do what you can—even if that means a walk to the mailbox three times a day.

If you live where the temperatures are hot, you have some options for exercise: Go to an air-conditioned gym, or community center, head for a pool, or get up at zero-thirty to beat the heat for some outdoor activity. (If your treatment is in the winter, and you live where it’s cold, the gym or community center again will protect you from the elements.) No matter what you do, make sure you’re paying attention to what your body is saying.

I originally thought I’d be walking the beach during my treatment months, even if slowly. Ha. During the months of my treatment, I walked about an-eighth of the boardwalk when I did venture to the beach (usually with a guest I wanted to take to the beach.) We’d last 20 minutes maximum, then I’d need to come home. The sun was too bright, and my endurance was too low. I’d spend the next day with a cold. It was so worth it. The beach was my sanity. When my mom would visit me, she’d offer to take me to the beach for 15-20 minutes. I’d just sit in the car. She’s go to the water’s edge before coming back to the car where I was sometimes asleep, or ready to go home.

Consider going to an indoor pool and sitting on a “noodle” like a swing, pumping with your legs, one at a time. Or “stand” perpendicular in the water, holding the “noodle” in front of you, and move your legs like an egg beater. It’s not a weight-bearing activity, but it’s a great place to be if your joints are aching, or you’re building your endurance. Once you have the energy and confidence, you can swim half short laps, building up to long lane laps if that’s your desire. Water aerobic classes are plentiful and work major muscle groups.

Whatever you do, start slowly. You will hear of people who walk “The Walk” right after treatment. Do not compare yourself with anyone else. Go at your pace. Listen to your body. Respect your needs.

Scoot over. Doggie wants to rest on the couch!




Exercising after Cancer

img_water-bottle_1image credit: Good Search

Sorry to ask this—but have you lifted any weights today? After breast or prostate cancer, there’s an increased risk of osteoporosis (bone loss). I used to lift weights, but since cancer, I haven’t. They’re heavy! swap around with walking, swimming, sit ups, leg lifts, but weights aren’t as enjoyable as they used to be. Perhaps I need to go back to three-pound weights, work up to five, and take it from there. The main reason I’ve backed off weights is not wanting to wear a compression sleeve. Poor excuse, really. (Learn more about compression sleeves).

What causes bone loss? First, let’s start with what helps protect us from bone loss. Hormones. Then along comes cancer, and cancer treatment. The hormones get blocked to help treat the cancer. This can make the bones less dense. Patients who are older and may already have weekend bones are at even higher risk for osteoporosis.

Patients who take aromatase inhibitors, which lower estrogen levels, are especially at risk for significant bone loss. Men who are treated for prostate cancer with androgen-deprivation therapy are also at risk for osteoporosis.

Makes you just want to sit down and eat a bowl of ice cream, doesn’t it? Get your calcium, and take it with vitamin C, and get plenty of vitamin D, too. remember, bone is a living tissue. Weight-bearing activities are good for building strong bones. Go ahead, lift that grandkid! Dance—even if someone’s watching! I buy potatoes one by one, but maybe I should lift up a bag or two at the store just for the sake of it. My first push-up after treatment was more of a push-down. I went straight down to the floor! Then again, the compression sleeve issue came into play. Work up to lifting weights. Start with water bottles, or cans.

Move up in weights gradually to avoid injury, or stressing out the lymph system. it seems everyone suggests having guidance and a supervised workout program. I have found I know way more about body mechanics and cancer than some gym trainers. I left a gym because I’d overhear the trainer giving bad advice to someone, or not correcting someone doing an exercise incorrectly. If you’re in physical therapy, it’s a great opportunity to learn new exercises, but you’ll move through the sessions quickly, then you’re on your own. Resistance training is good, but again, start with low resistance, and slowly progress. That’s the take-away. “Start low, progress slow.”

Here are some ideas for weight-bearing exercises for any level:

  • lunges
  • squats
  • rowing or pull down (you’ll need equipment)
  • bicep curls (don’t go buy weights – use what you have: water bottles, cans of food, bags of rice…)
  • tricep kickbacks
  • push against a wall

Sometimes when I walk the beach, I pick up trash as I walk. wear gloves and carry a bag. The frequent bending (and it’s a pretty clean beach) is a great gluteus workout! The first time I did it was soon after chemo. I don’t recommend that.

Here’s a link to some exercise ideas and tips.