GUEST POST – By: David Haas, Writer for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.
You may currently be undergoing treatment for cancer, were just diagnosed or are in remission. Whatever the case may be, do not neglect your fitness level as you move towards healing. It is becoming increasingly obvious through scientific research that exercise can improve the mood, energy levels, pain levels, and ability to sleep of cancer patients- even in difficult cases like mesothelioma.
Humans have evolved the ability to produce certain brain chemicals that help us when times are stressful. One of these is a class of neurotransmitters called endorphins. These important brain chemicals are released when a certain threshold of physical exertion is reached. You may have heard of the phenomena of “runners high.” This feeling of elevated mood is produced by the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s own painkillers.
Many cancer patients have even been able to reduce their reliance on narcotic pain killers from exercise alone. And one great aspect of this form of pain reduction is there is no dependency (except in a good way) or side effects involved. The effect can last for hours and not only helps with pain, but with sleep. Many cancer patients find they sleep much better on days they’ve exercised.
Cancer treatment can also create anxiety through cortisol release. Cortisol is a body chemical associated with high levels of stress. It can be helpful at times, but elevated levels on a continuing basis are not good. By getting enough exercise, you will reduce cortisol levels in your body and experience less stress and anxiety in your life. This alone will lift your spirits and provide you with the motivation to continue increasing your fitness level.
Some scientists feel elevated cortisol levels may be as damaging to health as elevated blood sugar or cholesterol. High cortisol can also lead to low testosterone, which can lead to muscle atrophy and an inability to recover properly from exercise.
Exercise is also known to increase energy levels over time. These benefits may take a few days or weeks to become apparent, but once you feel that energy boost, you won’t want to return to a sedentary lifestyle. And when you have more energy, you are generally in a better mood, easier to be around, and less anxious.
If you feel motivated to try exercise so that you can experience its many benefits for yourself, be sure to start slowly at a pace that your body can handle. You can gradually increase the intensity, pace, and duration of your exercise program as you increase your stamina, energy levels and strength. You don’t need to become an Olympic athlete to quickly begin seeing results that will increase your quality of life.