Regular physical activity has been shown to benefit people with leukemia in many ways. Exercise can improve the quality of life of those with leukemia during and after treatment. Being physically active helps reduce fatigue and sleep problems. People with leukemia who exercise regularly report better physical function, improved mood, and increased self-esteem. Some leukemia treatments are only recommended for those in good overall condition. Staying physically active may help keep more treatment options open and ease your recovery after treatments.
Remaining sedentary can speed the loss of strength and function. A sedentary lifestyle can also contribute to the development of other conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. A sedentary lifestyle also contributes to osteoporosis, which can lead to painful and debilitating bone fractures.
For all these reasons, exercise is worthwhile for people with leukemia.
What does it involve?
Consult your doctor for medical clearance before beginning a new exercise regimen. Your doctor may want to assess your blood count, cardiovascular health, or bone mineral density. You may need to avoid certain types of exercise due to risk for bleeds or injury. Either your doctor or a physical therapist can help guide you toward activities that are safe for your condition.
Weight-bearing exercises strengthen bones and muscles. Weight-bearing activities can range from walking to stair-climbing, using an elliptical machine, dancing, or lifting weights. Even bearing your own body weight or lifting very light weights can strengthen muscles and build bones. Many weight-bearing exercises can be done in a seated position.
Aerobic exercise benefits the cardiovascular system. Aerobic exercise can take many forms. Walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary or recumbent bike, climbing stairs, or swimming can all provide effective exercise.
Improving balance can help you avoid falls. Exercises that focus on balance include tai chi and yoga, walking on tiptoe, and standing on one leg.
Daily activities such as shopping, gardening, or walking a pet can also provide safe, valuable exercise. You can work out at home while following an exercise DVD or YouTube channel, or consider joining a dance class, spin class, or yoga class to keep you motivated and incorporate social aspects. Some non-profit cancer organizations and treatment centers offer exercise classes.
Whatever type of exercise you choose, follow some general safety guidelines. Always begin your workout session with a gradual warm-up and take the time to cool down afterward. Stay hydrated with plenty of cool liquids, choosing beverages without caffeine. While exercising, listen to your body. If you feel pain or become short of breath, take a break and rest. Exercise should be somewhat challenging, but never a struggle.
It is important not to become discouraged early on when beginning an exercise regimen. Set attainable goals and focus on finding ways of staying active that are safe, enjoyable and easy to do regularly. Even a few minutes of exercise each day can provide benefits to those with leukemia.
Exercise can help those with leukemia reduce treatment side effects such as fatigue, trouble sleeping, and mood problems, and improve their quality of life.
Research has shown that exercise can improve fatigue and quality of life in those with cancer.
People with leukemia may avoid exercise due to pain, fatigue, or weakness. Exercise may seem especially out of reach to those undergoing or recovering from leukemia treatments such as chemotherapy or allogeneic stem cell transplant.
Treatment side effects such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, or nausea may make it more difficult to exercise.
For more details about this treatment, visit:
Physical Activity and the Cancer Patient – American Cancer Society
The Importance of Exercise – Cancer.net
Exercise Has Short- and Long-Term Benefits for Cancer Survivors – Cancer Updates, Research & Education
Exercise – Leukaemia Care
Activity & Exercise – The Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program of BC