Posted 2 weeks ago

Movement is Medicine

Movement can help combat fatigue and improve appetite in cancer patients by boosting energy levels, stimulating circulation, and enhancing overall well-being. Exercise can also help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, which are common in cancer patients and can contribute to fatigue and poor appetite. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a yoga session, or a workout at the gym, movement can improve mood, boost energy levels, and enhance overall health.

Additionally, regular physical activity can improve muscle strength and endurance, making everyday activities easier to manage, and may even enhance the effectiveness of cancer treatments.

Clinical research suggests that aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week, can provide substantial health benefits for adults. This recommendation comes from various health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Heart Association (AHA). However, it’s important for individuals to tailor their activity goals based on their current fitness level, health status, and personal preferences, and to gradually increase activity levels over time if needed.

Movement fights fatigue through several mechanisms:
1. Increased Energy Production: Exercise enhances the production of energy in the body by improving cardiovascular and respiratory function, which in turn increases oxygen and nutrient delivery to tissues. This leads to enhanced overall energy levels and reduced feelings of fatigue.
2. Release of Endorphins: Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins can help reduce feelings of fatigue and promote a sense of well-being.
3. Improved Sleep Quality: Regular exercise can improve sleep quality by promoting deeper and more restorative sleep cycles. Better sleep leads to increased daytime alertness and reduced fatigue.
4. Stress Reduction: Exercise helps reduce stress levels by lowering the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, while increasing the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Lower stress levels can alleviate feelings of fatigue and improve overall well-being.
5. Enhanced Muscle Strength and Endurance: Regular physical activity strengthens muscles and improves endurance, making everyday tasks feel less tiring. This can help individuals conserve energy and reduce feelings of fatigue during daily activities.
6. Improved Mental Health: Exercise has been shown to have positive effects on mental health, including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which are often associated with fatigue. By improving mood and cognitive function, exercise can help combat feelings of fatigue and enhance overall quality of life.

Setting realistic goals in exercise is crucial for long-term success and motivation. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you:
1. Assess Your Current Fitness Level: Understand where you are currently in terms of strength, endurance, flexibility, etc. This will give you a baseline to work from.
2. Define Specific Goals: Instead of vague goals like “getting fit,” be specific. For example, aim to run a 5k in a certain time, lift a particular weight, or reduce body fat by a certain percentage.
3. Make Them Attainable*: Your goals should be challenging but achievable based on your current fitness level and lifestyle. Setting overly ambitious goals can lead to frustration and burnout.
4. Set a Timeline: Give yourself a realistic timeframe to achieve your goals. This will help keep you accountable and motivated.
5. Break Them Down: Large goals can be overwhelming. Break them down into smaller, manageable steps. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon, start with a plan to increase your mileage gradually.
6. Track Your Progress: Keep a journal or use fitness apps to track your workouts, measurements, and progress towards your goals. This will help you stay on track and adjust as needed.
7. Stay Flexible: Be open to adjusting your goals as you progress. Sometimes life gets in the way, and that’s okay. Adapt your goals accordingly to keep them realistic and achievable.
8. Celebrate Achievements: Recognize and celebrate your progress along the way. Whether it’s hitting a new personal best or sticking to your workout routine for a month, celebrate your achievements to stay motivated.

However, it’s essential for cancer patients to consult with their healthcare team before starting any exercise program to ensure it’s safe and appropriate for their individual condition.


Brenda Gridley, CSP, RDN

Brenda is originally from Los Angeles, CA where she attended California State University of Los Angeles for her under graduate degree in Nutritional Science. She began her career with Kaiser Permanente in 2004.    Throughout her professional development, she has worked in Cardiology and open heart surgery, Renal/Dialysis, organ transplants and Oncology, including chemotherapy, radiation and head and neck.  Brenda has extensive experience with weight management programs, including Bariatric and finally Eating disorders and mindful eating.  She went on to specialize in the Pediatric population and has maintained her Certification in Pediatric Nutrition since 2011.  Areas she has managed include pediatric and neonatal intensive care units where she was responsible for individualizing therapeutic diets and alternate nutrition support  based on specific metabolic needs, medical conditions, and cultural preferences.

Her passion for nutrition was developed at a young age and reared by her grandmother who always instilled the importance of a healthy diet and active lifestyle.  When her grandmother became ill, Brenda became aware of the impact nutrition plays in disease prevention and maintaining overall mind and body health.  She cared for grandmother until she passed and has made it her goal to help others achieve their full “nutrition potential” with using a culturally sensitive holistic approach.

She is married with two beautiful daughters and in her spare time she enjoys watching movies with her children, experimenting with new recipes, reading mystery novels, running and Yoga.

Please ask your Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers provider for a referral to see our dietary counselors.