"Don't Take Cancer Lying Down"

Written By Alaina Cyr

“Exercise is a powerful medical intervention, not just a hobby. It can have a profound impact on your health,” said Dr. Mary Jane Esplen, speaking to the crowd at ELLICSR’s National Cancer Survivors Day celebration.

Image of a group exercise class underway
Some attendees of ELLICSR's National Cancer
Survivor Day participate in the yoga workshop.

Dr. Esplen from the University Health Network, Dr. Kerry Courneya from the University of Alberta, Dr. Daniel Santa Mina from ELLICSR, Dr. Catherine Sabiston from the University of Toronto, and Barbara Jenkins, cancer survivor and Lebed Healthy-Steps instructor, formed a panel discussion on exercise and cancer. The message shared by the panelists was loud and clear: “Don’t take cancer lying down.”

Dr. Courneya mentioned that exercising during cancer treatment is not something many people think about, but the research is clear. Exercising during cancer treatment is safe and does not interfere with treatment response. Exercise can also help manage some side effects of cancer treatment like fatigue, depression, and sleep problems.

quotation mark A little bit of activity is a lot more than none.
Dr. Daniel Santa Mina

There are so many different ways to be active, but which exercise is the best? “The one you like! If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t want to do it,” said Dr. Sabiston. You can even exercise safely with side effects like neuropathy (numbness in your limbs) or fatigue, either by modifying an activity you like or trying something new. For example, if you have balance issues, water aerobics or seated exercises may be safer alternatives that will still get your blood pumping. The trick is finding something you enjoy so you’ll be motivated to do it.

One of the most common barriers people with cancer experience is physical exhaustion. While it may seem to go against common sense, using the energy you have on being active will help boost your get-up-and-go. Try scheduling activity during times when you are the most energetic. Even if you need to take a break after walking for 1 minute, staying active will prevent you from losing your stamina and will help you gain your energy back.

You may not feel up to walking around the block let alone running a marathon, but every little bit of activity counts. As Dr. Santa Mina put it, “a little bit of activity is a lot more than none.”

Looking for ways to add activity into you day?