Exercise in Oncology: Information Overload, Decision Making & Getting Help

 In Current Blog

April 16, 2012
By: Scott Adams

With endless supplies of fitness magazines and websites claiming to have the answer to all our health and fitness needs, it is easy to understand why people have trouble discriminating between exercise-fact and exercise-fiction. Maintaining our mental, emotional and financial health requires a significant amount of our time and energy. As such, our physical health is often bumped down our list of priorities. The simple truth is: even in perfect health, understanding the importance of, and prioritizing, physical activity is difficult for many people. Unfortunately, as you are no doubt aware, adding a cancer diagnosis to “the mix” does not make our decision-making around this any easier.

Cancer is complex. Unfortunately, so too are the answers to many of the problems that people fighting cancer face. Similarly, when approaching the subject of physical activity and cancer, there are many things that must be considered. Given the complex nature of the subject, this post is meant to serve as an introduction to a series of physical activity-related posts to follow. Let’s get into it…

Exercise in Oncology: Things to consider

Pre-diagnosis, whether you were an armchair athlete or a tri-athlete, everyone can benefit from exercise. Whether you are recovering from or living with cancer, EVERYONE can benefit from exercise. However, the very elements that make ‘your story’ yours also require special attention when considering how to use exercise to stay or get back on your feet. The fact is cancer changes everything (including our approach to exercise). In order to ensure that you are getting the most out of it without putting yourself at unnecessary risk, here are some things to consider:

· pre-diagnosis condition or activity level
· the presence of any underlying health problems (beyond cancer)
· age, gender, life-stage and disease-stage at diagnosis
· extent of your surgeries and treatments (and the severity of any complications that may have arisen as a result)
· whether your treatments are associated with any potential long-term risks
· current condition and energy levels
· short- and long-term goals (personal, academic or work-related)
· the professional resources that are available to you

With so much to consider, we recommend that you seek the advice of a qualified exercise specialist to help inform your decision-making process. The question is how do you find someone who is qualified? Being a relatively new area of expertise, finding someone with the training and experience in exercise oncology may not be easy. So, I will leave you with a few questions to ask of any person giving you exercise (anyone with the right experience will never take offence to being asked).

Questions to ask:

1. Does the person AT LEAST have an undergraduate degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology, Kinesiology, Physiotherapy, or a related field of study?
2. Does the person have previous experience and specialized training in working with people with cancer (VERY IMPORTANT)? [If they say “yes”…ask for details.] 3. Does the person have professional liability insurance to work with this population?

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