Learn How Yoga Offers Relief From Cancer-Related Fatigue

Breast Cancer Yoga Pose

Angela Strynkowski, E-RYT 500 Happily Doing “Legs Over Bolster” Yoga Pose

Author: Diana Ross, E-RYT 500, Posted By: Breast Cancer Yoga Staff.

Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is very common. Fatigue can often be confused with tiredness, but there are differences between the two conditions. For one, tiredness happens to everyone, especially after certain activities or chemo – but  fatigue is less common and an excessive whole-body tiredness that is not relieved with sleep.   This debilitating condition can impact your quality of life.  It can be acute (lasting a month or less) or chronic (lasting from one month to six months or longer). The precise reason for this intensive tiredness is unknown, but practitioners believe it may be related to the process of cancer itself or chemotherapies and radiation treatments. (CRF) is one of the most common side effects of cancer and its associated treatments. Usually, it comes on suddenly, and does not result from activity or exertion. It is often described as “paralyzing.” It may continue even after treatment is complete.

If you’re a cancer survivor and feeling tired or even worse, even long after treatment, you are not alone. But you can do something about it.

About one-third of breast cancer survivors experience CRF for anywhere from a year to several years post-treatment. While there’s no conventional therapy to resolve it, studies are increasingly showing yoga can help.  Patients with different cancers report relief with exercise, specifically yoga.

Yoga designed especially for breast cancer survivors is helping women to catch a second wind.

In fact, a recent UCLA study found that three months after beginning this practice, women with post-treatment fatigue were still feeling more invigorated than before they began the exercise program. Not only do women become more energized, but they see improvement in mood and sleep; they are typically more relaxed, more aware, and more accepting of what life brings to them. All these attributes are so critical as we work toward continued mental and physical well being, and ultimately, our healing.

How does Breast Cancer Yoga target physical and emotional fatigue?

Breast Cancer Yoga helps relieve taxing fatigue by encouraging deep breathing, which increases oxygen consumption.  This deep breathing is then tied into each gentle flowing yoga movement.  Each pose is supported with props to allow for comfort and support.

Begin a yoga practice, slowly, and before long you will begin to experience positive energy, increased flexibility, and less pain.

Studies show that breast cancer survivors who practice restorative yoga poses regularly, sleep better, have less joint pain, more energy, mental clarity, increased range of motion (ROM), strength, increased resistance, and lower stress.

Exercising to gain energy and strength can be a catch all; it’s hard to exercise if you’re tired and weak but what’s nice about yoga, particularly restorative yoga, is that it doesn’t take the strength and stamina required to go out for a run or bike ride. Restorative poses can be done either in a reclined position or a supported seated position.

Technique and pacing are important.

Please don’t over do it, especially when you get started. Rather, gradually implement a daily yoga practice. Work to maintain a positive attitude and know through time and practice you will see improvement. You will actually find that recovery can be a positive, “feel good” experience. Please speak to your health care provider before starting an exercise program of any kind. For more on restorative yoga and to see more poses demonstrated, visit http://www.breastcanceryoga.com/

Diana RossAbout Diana Ross:  E-RYT 500 restorative yoga teacher, survivor that cares and founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Diana is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at info@breastcanceryoga.com if you have questions.

Exercise! It’s Important For Cancer Survivors and Thrivers

Yoga On The Lawn With Diana Ross, Breast Cancer Survivors & Family Members.

Yoga On The Lawn With Diana Ross, Breast Cancer Survivors & Family Members.

By: Brian D. Lawenda, MD, Clinical Director, 21st Century Oncology &  www.1UpOnCancer.com.

Almost every opportunity I get, I take the time to sit down with my active cancer patients & thrivers and ask them ‘how are you feeling?’

…The number one thing I often hear is ‘I have no energy’ or ‘I’m tired all the time.’

Although potentially serious causes first need to be evaluated and addressed by your doctors, feeling tired during and after cancer treatment (also known as “cancer related fatigue” or CRF) is often a result of the cancer or the effects of treatment on your body. CRF is one of the most common and distressful symptoms our patients face, and it can persist for months to years after treatment. Did you know that one of the most effective ways to fight and reverse CRF is with exercise? Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

No one knows precisely how exercise is able to help you fight CRF. The most likely theory is that exercise reduces inflammation and free radicals in the body (by lowering levels of inflammatory proteins, called “cytokines”), both of which seem to increase the severity and risk of CRF.

Sadly, many patients and physicians feel that once you have been diagnosed with cancer there is no point in focusing on starting healthful lifestyle habits (i.e. smoking cessation, eating healthfully, weight loss if overweight, etc.)…after all, the ‘damage has already been done’, right?

NOT TRUE. Increasingly, researchers are proving that this fatalistic approach is absolutely wrong, particularly when it comes to not getting adequate physical activity.

Studies show that physical activity not only improves your overall health, but can reduce your risk of a cancer recurrence (or even dying from cancer) after treatment.

How many of your doctors have told you about the remarkable effects of exercise in fighting cancer? My guess is not many. You might want to inform them that credentialed research has found that by simply walking 3-4 total hours per week a breast cancer thriver can reduce their risk of a recurrence by up to 60%; this risk reduction is not unique to breast cancer.

An added benefit of exercise is that it will reduce your risk of developing future cancers. Unfortunately, just because you’ve had one cancer doesn’t mean you are out of the woods for developing a different one in the future. I have treated too many patients who have had more than one cancer in their lifetime.

While we are still learning exercises’ role in reducing the development, growth or recurrence of cancer, it seems that at least some of the anti-cancer effects have to do with numerous beneficial hormonal, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative changes that occur in the body from exercise and weight loss.

How much exercise do you need?

The majority of experts recommend that your goal be to get at least 150 minutes each week (30 minutes per day, 5 days per week) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. brisk walking) and at least 2-3 sessions of strength training per week (i.e. weights, resistance exercises.)

New information has come out recently that is also important to know: it’s not enough to only be physically active just once a day for 30 minutes.

We now know that the amount of time we spend each day being inactive (i.e. watching TV, sitting for prolonged periods of time) also increases our risk of cancer growth, recurrence, and death. So, at the very least, get up and do something active every hour.

The health benefits of physical activity extend well-beyond cancer:

  • Reduced risk of dying early from other medical conditions
  • Improved quality of life
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved muscle strength and flexibility
  • Improved bone density
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Improved immune function
  • Reduced stress, anxiety and depression

Need motivation to get your activity levels up?

I’m a big fan of using a gadget called a “pedometer.” You can clip these to your

waist or wear them on your wrist, and they will count the steps or activity you do through the day. Studies show that most people think they are far more active than they actually are. Using a pedometer is enlightening, as it doesn’t lie. When a person wears a pedometer, researchers have found that activity increases by over 25%. To maintain healthful fitness levels, a goal of 10,000 steps (approximately 5 miles) per day is recommended.

It is smart to be cautious before starting an exercise regimen if you’ve had cancer as you may have new treatment-related side effects or limitations (i.e. lymphedema, neuropathy, limitations in range of motion.) That said, most experts agree that exercise is very safe during and after treatment as long as you are careful. If you have any questions or concerns about what kind of exercise is appropriate and safe for you, discuss this with your doctors. You may also want to work with a fitness professional (i.e. trainers, therapists, cancer rehabilitation programs) to help design an exercise program specifically tailored to you. Make sure that you investigate their credentials first, as it is important that they have experience working with clients who have a history of cancer.

So, what are you waiting for… just do it!

Available Exercise Resources For Breast Cancer:
Restorative Yoga For Breast Cancer Recovery: Gentle Flowing Yoga For Breast Health, Cancer Related Fatigue and Lymphedema Management

Founder of  1UpOnCancer.Com

Rachel Pappas is breast cancer survivor. She is the founder of www.1UpOnCancer.com. And the author of Hopping Roller Coasters, which tells the story of her and her daughter, both diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

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