Staying active is important for all seniors, especially for seniors with cancer. Gentle exercise helps cancer patients maintain energy, appetite and muscle mass — all of which contribute to improved quality of life.
Seniors are at risk for a cancer called mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma almost always develops in seniors because it takes 20 to 50 years for asbestos to cause the damage that leads to cancer.
In nearly 80 percent of cases, mesothelioma forms in the lining around the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Despite setbacks in lung health, seniors can engage in gentle forms of exercise to help improve their mesothelioma prognosis. Exercise has shown to improve respiratory function for lung cancer patients, and research is underway in Australia to confirm this effect in mesothelioma patients.
Low-impact cardiovascular or aerobic exercise, such as walking, stationary cycling and swimming, is appropriate for mesothelioma patients to improve cardiac function, oxygen-carrying capacity and overall fitness.
A good way to get started is to take daily five- to 10-minute walks. Once you begin to feel comfortable walking, start adding in other aerobic exercise and resistance training.
A 2011 study examined the impact of progressive resistance exercise training (PRET) on lung cancer survivors and reported the following benefits:
• Improved muscle strength and endurance
• Increased mobility and bone density
• Better physical functioning and cardiovascular health
• Healthier body composition
PRET can help people recover from cancer treatment and cachexia, a common condition among cancer patients involving fatigue, weight loss and muscle mass loss.
Make sure to warm up and cool down after exercising. Warming up is made easy with a five-minute walk around the house or yard. To cool down, take another short walk or stretch for five minutes.
Try the following exercises to increase muscle strength, improve mobility and boost energy.
Before you begin, place hands on the back of a chair for support to maintain balance.
Stand and keep your feet slightly more than hip-distance apart. Point feet slightly outward. Stare straight ahead at a point in front of you, and keep your eyes on this point to promote balance.
Bend at the knee and drop your hips down and backward. As you squat down gently, keep your knees in line with your feet. Once you build strength, you can progressively release lower into the squat. It’s best to start with a minimal range of motion until you are stronger.
Stand facing a wall approximately one foot away so that when you lean against it there is enough space to perform a push-up. Place your palms against the wall a little more than shoulder-width apart.
Make sure your feet are grounded into the floor and your palms are firmly planted against the wall. Bend at the elbow and allow your chest to lead you toward the wall. Once your elbows are in line with your torso, press your palms into the wall to push away.
Repeat five to 10 times or until your muscles feel fatigued.
Try this exercise in a seated position for stability. Standing works, too.
Position your elbows shoulder-height with forearms at a 90-degree angle. Lift arms straight up and then back down to shoulder-height. Repeat five to 10 times.
A number of gentle exercises are easily performed in a chair. For example, simply sitting down and getting up from a chair will engage muscles of the legs, abdomen, back and shoulders.
From a seated position, extend one foot out and attempt to lift your knee slightly above the other bent knee. Contact the muscles of your upper leg to engage the full leg. Repeat motion with the other leg.
Slowly perform the exercise, alternating leg lifts for one minute.
This exercise is also easily performed from a seated or standing position. Try it without weights to slowly build bicep strength and mobility.
Begin with your arms rested along the side of your body with palms facing up. Engage your bicep muscle to slowly lift your lower arms up towards your shoulders. Slowly release your lower arms back into an extended position. Repeat the exercise 10-15 times or until your biceps become fatigued.
Ideally, try to exercise 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Consider three 10-minute exercise sessions a day if you tire quickly. Over time, you’ll build endurance and exercising will become easier.
To learn more about the many ways Lake Park Retirement Residences helps residents lead active and healthy lifestyles, contact us today or schedule a visit!
Author bio: Michelle Whitmer has been a medical writer and editor for The Mesothelioma Center since 2008. Focused on the benefits of integrative medicine for cancer patients, Michelle is a certified yoga instructor, member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine and graduated from Rollins College in Florida.
Peddle-McIntyre, C.J., Bell, G., Fenton, D., McCargar, L.,& Courneya, K.S. (2013). Changes in motivational outcomes after a supervised resistance exercise training intervention in lung cancer survivors. Cancer Nursing, 36(1):E27-35. doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e31824a78e4