When to avoid certain types of exercise

Move - Article 08

First off, in most cases, maintaining regular exercise is completely safe during or after treatment. It is even recommended to help alleviate some of the side effects of treatment and prevent other conditions such as lymphoedema. However, there are some instances when exercise should be avoided and it’s important to be aware of them.

Anyone new to exercise should always take the slow and steady approach but we always advise, regardless of where you are in your fitness journey, to stop working out altogether if you start to feel unwell or develop symptoms that cause concern. Also, if you have any joint or bone problems, be mindful of the type of exercises you perform and opt to avoid “high-impact” exercises like running. There’s lots of other good stuff!

You develop symptoms

If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s important to stop exercising immediately:

  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Racing heart
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Sickness
  • Headaches, or
  • Severe pain in the muscles or bones

Remember, your body’s going though a lot and it’s important for you to react to what it’s trying to tell you. Don’t be disheartened if you do need to modify your regime, our experts at Onko will be able to advise on alternative exercises so we can help you continue progressing.

You have a specific treatment or surgery

The type of surgery you have could impact whether or not to engage in exercise afterwards, so it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor or a health professional if you have any concerns.

Equally, the type of treatment you receive needs to be taken into consideration and discussed with your doctor. For instance, chemotherapy can lower your blood cell count which may increase the risk of encountering other problems like infection, bruising, bleeding and anaemia.

You lose spatial awareness

An important thing to consider whenever approaching exercise is proprioception: the body’s ability to perceive its own position in space. A normal level of proprioception allows your body to move freely without the need for careful attention or deliberate thought, but the risk of proprioception loss will increase as we get older because of natural, age-related changes and decline of our body.

A proprioception disorder or injury could pose problems for exercise such as:

  • Increasing the risk of injury when moving or lifting
  • Trouble recognising strength or being able to effectively engage the muscles
  • A loss of balance and coordination – increasing the risk of falls and injury during workouts

Sometimes proprioception can be brought on as a side-effect of chemotherapy, such as peripheral neuropathy. Commonly, this can be experienced with the symptoms of numbness, tingling or perhaps pain in the extremities, which can affect your ability to grip weights or apparatus. In the more severe cases it may be unwise to begin an exercise program without professional supervision

You have or develop a heart problem

The cardiovascular system consists of the heart and the blood vessels that are needed to keep the blood flowing to all the parts of the body. Exercise places a stress or a burden on the heart and it is important to seek advise before exercising if have a problem with any part of your cardiovascular system. Some chemotherapy drugs can affect the heart and it is important to check this with your doctor or healthcare professional before commencing an exercise programme.

Your energy levels are low

You might not have obvious symptoms or adverse side-effects but your energy levels might appear to be at an all-time low. Check in with yourself regularly and stay tuned in to your energy levels to avoid overdoing it.

Cancer related fatigue is something people often cite as being the most disruptive or frustrating side effect. Sometimes overlooked or underestimated, it can leave you with zero motivation and the desire to lay in bed all day. And that’s ok sometimes!

But there is also a lot of research that indicates light to moderate physical activity every day can increase energy levels and lead to improved mood, appetite and sleep. You might need some professional support to help you exercise through your fatigue.