But there’s also another event that occurs in February and it’s a pretty big one: American Heart Month. It’s a great time to focus on your heart health and make choices to keep it healthy. One way to do that is through exercise, which can keep you – and your heart – in top form!
Exercise is important for everyone, including cancer patients and survivors. In fact, experts in the cancer-fighting field agree it can help you in a number of ways:
- fights muscle atrophy (muscle wasting away)
- can reduce chances of cancer from recurring
- improve mood
- boost self-confidence
- reduce fatigue
- improve overall quality of life
So, how do you start, especially if you’re not someone who has exercised regularly before? First, the American Cancer Society recommends checking with your primary care provider (physician, oncologist) and your cancer team, especially if your treatments can affect your lungs and/or your heart, or if you are at risk for lung or heart disease.
After getting the go ahead from your primary care provider, here are a few tips to get started on a heart-healthy exercise regime:
- Start off slow, and increase frequency gradually. Experts recommend you build up to exercising at least 150 minutes per week. Make sure to take regular breaks and drink plenty of water.
- Keep it fun – pick an activity that you enjoy! Don’t be afraid to mix it up by including some strength (weight-bearing) training exercises at least two days per week. This can include exercising with light weights, yoga, or using a resistance band.
- Enlist a partner in your exercise routine.
- Set short and long term goals for yourself.
- Don’t push yourself – exercise as you are able and don’t push yourself while you are in treatment – make sure to listen to your body and rest when you need to do so.
In addition to a regular exercise program, here are some suggestions for adding some physical activity to your daily routine:
- walk up stairs instead of taking the elevator
- take a walk around your neighborhood after dinner
- play active games with your kids or grandkids (like freeze tag, jump rope, etc.)
- park your car in the farthest spot at the grocery store, mall, work and walk to the building
- exercise while watching TV – ex: arm curls, squats, lunges, crunches
- wear a pedometer every day and try to increase your daily steps
You can make a difference in your heart – and your overall health – by just making a few changes! Your heart – and health – will thank you!