A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Simple ways to stay active during serious illness

Two women wash dishes and talkingPersonal energy is at a premium when you’re undergoing treatment for cancer or other serious illness.

Your body expends energy to help medical treatments work and anything leftover goes to activities of daily living. If you’re expecting your body to have any extra energy left to exercise, you’re probably asking too much.

Vivian Gamble, a Marshfield Clinic occupational therapist, has helped patients undergoing cancer treatment or in recovery to find ways to keep moving.

Are activities exercise?

“Too often people interchange the words ‘exercise’ and ‘activity,’” Gamble said. “Exercise makes us think of going to the gym and working out. Activity sounds less exhaustive and more feasible when you may not be feeling your best.”

To maintain a level of activity, expending a little energy can reduce fatigue, keep your muscles strong and make you tired enough that you sleep better, despite health issues you may be facing.

Stick to basics

Gamble recommends doing three things every day:

  • Get dressed.
  • Do something work-related like cleaning, laundry or employment.
  • Do something that’s fun like watching a movie with a friend, going shopping or another activity your body is up for doing that day.

“You feel better when you get dressed for the day,” she said. “It feels good to get cleaned up. Then, if you’re able to do a fourth activity, add a little exercise.”

Use your energy by the cupful

Lots of conditions cause fatigue that can drain a limited supply of personal energy when your health is compromised. Gamble compares your body’s energy stores to that of a coffee pot.

“Your energy level is a full coffee pot,” she said. “It’s all the energy you will have for the whole day. Decide how much to pour out. If you pour your energy out in increments, it can help you take better care of yourself.”

Exercise can help replenish your “coffee pot.”

“Daily activities like housework and helping care for kids, when done in small increments can, just like exercise, help improve mood, counteract depression and increase energy,” Gamble said. “Other activities to consider include ball exercises, basic yoga and core strengthening.”

Learn more about ways to stay active during serious illness.

  1. Feb 12, 2016
    • Feb 12, 2016

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