Looking after yourself during your treatment course is very important. A healthy diet, combined with the right amount of physical activity, can make a difference in your overall health and wellbeing. Here are some tips to help you prioritise your health.
Eating a healthy diet and being well nourished during your radiation therapy can help you to:
- Keep up your strength
- Stay at a healthy weight
- Keep your energy levels up
- Cope better with side effects, and
- Recover sooner
During your treatment, you’ll need more energy to rebuild muscles and recover from the side effects.
Eating small, frequent meals or snacks can help to maintain a healthy weight and reduce tiredness. Your doctor or dietitian can advise you on your individual needs during this time.
Exercise helps prevent cancer coming back
The latest research suggests exercise can help keep cancer from recurring. Studies have suggested that:
- Being overweight after completing treatment was linked with shorter survival times – as well as a higher risk of the cancer coming back
- Women who exercise after completing breast cancer treatment live longer and have less recurrence
- Colorectal cancer survivors who exercised lived longer than those who didn't
Exercising could help you live a longer life - free from cancer.
Benefits of exercise
Regardless of whether you have cancer, exercise helps to keep you fit and strong. There are many health benefits linked with regular exercise – including:
- Increased fitness
- Greater muscle strength
- Leaner body mass
- Less weight gain
- Improved mood
- Boost self-confidence
- Reduce fatigue
- Lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes
Getting back into exercise
It’s normal to slow down after a cancer diagnosis. The range of emotions you’re feeling – as well as potential side effects from treatment – can make you feel more tired and less active.
While it’s important to rest during your treatment, avoiding activity isn’t a good idea. Moving around, and doing a bit of exercise every day, can help to improve your recovery and make you feel more positive, too.
So if you've down-shifted your activity level since your cancer diagnosis, now is the time to rev back up.
As everyone is different, it’s important to speak to your doctor before you get started.
Exercises to help you get started
The following exercises can be a good starting point if you haven’t exercised in a while:
- Flexibility exercises - stretching is important to keep you moving and maintain mobility
- Aerobic exercise - walking, jogging, and swimming helps to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight, and maintain cardiovascular fitness
- Resistance training - lifting weights builds muscle, and many people actually lose muscle, but gain fat, through cancer treatment (resistance training is especially helpful if you have a high fat-to-lean mass ratio)
You can also increase your physical activity without joining a gym, or even leaving the house, just by incorporating more movement into your daily routine.
Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
- Take the stairs instead of riding the elevator
- Buy a pedometer (step counter) and increase your number of steps daily
- Take frequent breaks throughout the day to stand, stretch, and take short walks
- Lift items around the house to build your muscles (heavy cans, detergent etc)
What if you're just too exhausted to exercise?
Sometimes you can feel so tired that resting is a good idea. Rest, start again slowly and build up. Take your time, and you energy level will increase in the long term.