Does exercise help fatigue?


Question from Allison: The side effects I've had since my treatment have left me so worn out. I do sometimes feel better if I make myself do a 10-minute walk. Does exercise help or is it my imagination that I feel a little better?
Answers - Lillian Nail Yes, exercise does help. And people with cancer often talk about how they feel energized after they have exercised. We don't know why exercise helps. We don't know much about the causes of fatigue, as Dr. Portenoy pointed out earlier, but people are starting studies now to look at that and get some answers to help us prevent it or treat it.
Russell Portenoy A decision to exercise can sometimes be difficult because many people will have a tendency to overdo it and to feel more fatigued initially. The best approach is to start with a limited amount of exercise, an amount that is below the threshold of making a person feel exhausted, and to do that amount of exercise on a regular basis as often as daily. Slowly, that amount of exercise should be increased if a person can tolerate it. Unfortunately, there are not enough studies for us to really know how to institute an exercise program in a way that would optimize the chance for success. And we tend to suggest that people take the approach of starting slowly and building it up, but committing to some type of exercise on a regular basis.
Lillian Nail We like to suggest that people get a professionally prepared exercise prescription from physical therapy or exercise physiology that is based on evaluating their condition and their limitations, because there are ways exercise can be adapted. For example, for people who have a hard time walking, or the types of exercises that people can do based on their initial testing.
Russell Portenoy I agree with Dr. Nail.
Lillian Nail Most of the studies have used walking as the primary exercise that is used.

On Wednesday, March 21, 2001, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Ease Fatigue, Boost Energy. Lillian Nail, Ph.D., R.N., Russel Portenoy, M.D., and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about ways to manage fatigue and increase energy levels.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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