Month: April 2014

Home-based Strengthening Exercises for Cancer Survivors

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Resistance training, or strength training utilises muscle contractions to build up strength by repeating the movements. Particularly during and after cancer treatment, you generally lose a lot of muscle strength and do not return to pre-existing levels. Think about where you used to be. Building up strength with resistance training will assist in getting you there. There are numerous benefits when completing strength training programs that have been shown in exercise-oncology studies and some of these have been listed as:

Other benefits have also been displayed in improved balance (reduced falls risk), sleep quality, pain levels and anxious feelings. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that strength training should be completed 2-3 times per week for most cancers.

Strength training also does not need to be in a gym, which is a common off-putter for a lot of the general population, but everybody is different. If you have access to weights in a gym, I definitely recommend participating in a weights program, but if not, I have written this post to demonstrate that strength training can be safely and cheaply completed in the comfort of your own home.

The above video introduces the use of resistance bands, which can replace expensive weights (and can also travel on holidays with you! I did this on my tour of the United Kingdom!!). Depending on your strength levels, you can start on a light band, and work your way up to the more challenging ones, and they often come in packages which is good for when you get stronger – here is a link I found to purchase resistance bands but there are plenty more types on sites like Amazon.

I have also put together examples of strength training exercises using these resistance bands and body weight exercises, that assists in attaining the benefits offered by resistance training.

Strength exercises for the arms: 

Strength exercises for the back: 

Strength exercises for the chest:

Strength exercises for the legs (beginners):

and for advanced

So in a general rule of thumb, we will aim for around 10 repetitions for each set of exercises. You can do each exercise 2-3 times with a 1 minute rest in between which may give you a program that looks like this (and take approx 20-30 mins):

Exercise        Repetitions  Sets  Rest

Sit to Stand               10              2-3     60s

Bicep Curl                 10              2-3     60s

Chest press               10              2-3     60s

Standing row           10              2-3     60s

Tricep push              10              2-3     60s

Upright row             10              2-3     60s

And a basic summary for you all:

I put it to you, to give this simple, whole body program a shot, at least 2-3 times per week for the next few weeks and see how you go. Stand in front of a mirror so you can monitor your technique and compare to the videos.

After just a few weeks, you will be able to adapt, and rebuild your muscle strength that you may have lost with treatment. You never know, you may even be able to surpass your strength and ability from before your treatment. I have seen this first hand from some women in my ovarian cancer studies who loved doing strength training and made it a part of their normal weekly habits. They loved not having to rely on anybody else and able to partake in activities they had not done in years.

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Let me know how you go!

Also, click follow on the side to subscribe and feel free to pass this onto somebody who you believe will benefit from re-gaining their strength, small steps at a time.

 

David Mizrahi

Accredited Exercise Physiologist – Exercise Oncology Australia

@Davemiz_EP

d.mizrahi@unsw.edu.au

 

 

 

 

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“Live in the peace of the moment; on your bike!” – an inspirational journey

Usually when you talk about cancer, or hear about somebody being diagnosed with cancer, we are instantly jumping to negative thoughts. However, we often miss the rest of the cup, the cup that can be half full if we wish it to be – the cup can even be three quarters full if we wanted it to be! 

Today I will speak of my encounter with Helene O’Neill. Helene is definitely a glass is three-quarters full kind of woman. A few weeks ago I presented my research at the Australia and New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group (ANZGOG) annual scientific meeting in Canberra, Australia – a meeting for the latest in women’s cancer research. It was a great day with some amazing oncologists presenting their research, interesting debates but also an initiative to have volunteers who assist with patient support groups enlighten us of their experiences. This is powerful because at the end of the day, I, along with others have passion for the health industry to help each individual person.

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Now Helene, a Uterine cancer survivor, did not sound like anything could get her down, and would rather take life by the horns. She spoke with such confidence and pride. She had strength that needed to be witnessed, as she is an inspiration for cancer survivors around the country, and this is evident with her passion for exercise and the community work she does with ANZGOG. I needed to find out more from her and her story, to share it, and assist in inspiring and motivating others so I asked her a few more questions….

Helene was diagnosed in 2007 around the same time her hometown of Newcastle flooded, which included her house. Her mother-in-law also passed away around the same time so it was a particularly sensitive period to say the least. Her oncologist, Dr Geoff Otton removed a grapefruit-sized tumour from her, performed a hysterectomy and removed lymph nodes, but she did not require radiation therapy.

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(above – The 2007 Newcastle floods were not going to hold Helene back)

I asked Helene how she felt physically and emotionally right after her treatment. She said “I was extremely tired in the early part and did suffer a loss of confidence with things like exercise”, which is completely understandable, right? “My bike is my friend and I remember the first time I went for a ride after the operation – a trip that normally takes 10 mins took me 30 mins – I was paranoid !! My quality of life was affected as the fear of lymphedema scared me but I attended a clinic and learnt a lot about the condition so I could get on with life.”

So the tasks usually simple to Helene were suddenly much more of a challenge, and that is where it is important to take the necessary steps to regain your fitness, be inspired and get back your lease on life. Helene was always healthy and physically active and her cancer diagnosis was not going to stop her. At first she feared she may have to stop exercising, but put that behind her as being active made her feel healthy and happy.

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(above – Helene getting back on the bike)

The self-proclaimed “super-competitive” former gym instructor is keen to try any form of exercise. Happy to avoid gyms, Helene likes to run, row, ride bikes and swim. She also enjoys sports – tennis, badminton and coaching soccer! Now, I thought I was super-sporty, but she is giving me a run for my money!!

I asked what a typical week of exercise looked like for her just to put into perspective:

Weekdays:

* Most mornings – mixture of running, riding, rowing and swimming – 1 hour

* Cycle to work (and also on the job) – about 1 hour

Afternoon/evening walk – 45 mins

* Sport: Tennis on Mondays (1 hour), Soccer on Tuesdays (1.5 hrs) and Badminton on Fridays (2 hrs)

Weekends:

* Variety of surfing, bush walking and paddle skiing

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(above – for those who don’t know paddle skiing, it is a water sport requiring a great amount of core abdominal strength, and is also very fun!)

I’ve spent much time talking in previous posts of the benefits of exercise in scientific research, but what also matters is how each individual feels. So how does being active make Helene feel? “I love the adrenalin rush. I also know that exercise is one aspect of my life that I am in control of. I like to exercise on my own so I can vary the activity, the pace and the duration and use the time to get to know myself better.” She is in the minority of people who requires little encouragement to exercise, so she definitely doesn’t need me running around telling her she is doing a great job, considering she has been a representative sports athlete since she was 5 years old. Even sometimes her husband tells her to slow down, as she “refuses to let age and health get in her way“. Amazing!

However, it is not without its challenges, the risk of lymphedema and infection remain a possibility, but she is willing to meet those challenges head on.

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Now as an ambassador for ANZGOG and to patients in rural areas, I asked Helene if she could provide a few words of inspiration to survivors who may be newly diagnosed or struggle for motivation. I often think these words are way more powerful from somebody who has had these experiences and bounced back, rather than a health professional like myself, who cannot speak of cancer first-hand – and this is what she said:

“Support comes in many forms but the one person I can rely on is myself. I encourage patients to steer away from the excuses, listen to their body and view exercise as one of the means to get well. There’s the adage ‘that cancer isn’t a sentence’. Basically it’s an opportunity to discover a ‘new’ you. Whilst everyone has a different cancer trip, it’s better to live in the present and enjoy every day to the max. I love to share my story – not the cancer journey – but the day-to-day highlights that I enjoy. Sure you reflect on the past but that’s not going to change – live in the peace of the moment. On your bike !!!”

I really hope you have found Helene’s story inspirational, as I have. Pass this story to somebody who you care about, a friend or a family member who can benefit from the support. Share on Facebook or Twitter to keep growing a community. Follow this blog for more posts, provide any comments or questions, join an e-mail list and like me on Twitter. Any questions, feel free to get in touch as well by e-mail.

Your Exercise Physiologist

David Mizrahi

E-mail: d.mizrahi@unsw.edu.au

Twitter: @Davemiz_EP

 

Presenting ovarian cancer & physical activity research at the ESSA conference, Adelaide

Every two years sees the national Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) conference held, which brings together about a thousand researchers, clinicians, academics and some amazing presenters to discuss the latest in physical activity research, clinical guidelines and the opportunity to collaborate and bring forward great ideas to move the field forward and create the best possible outcomes for our patients.

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The highlights of this conference for me were:

* Prof Daniel Green – why exercise is better for the cardiovascular system than we first believed

* Prof Graham Kerr – Exercise in patients with neurodegenerative disorders

* Dr Kim Bennell – exercise as therapy for osteoarthritis

* A/Prof Lorimer Moseley – Exercise for the patient with chronic pain

These talks were inspirational and I managed to learn some great information. However, this conference was also more special for me as I was fortunate enough to present my research on exercise for women with advanced ovarian cancer.

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It was a great environment to discuss my findings, in which these patients who were undergoing chemotherapy who exercised for more than 90 minutes/week had reduced fatigue, slept better, improved quality of life, were stronger and had less anxiety.

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I also had a poster viewing session, which was a great way to interact with other researchers. Here I met an expert in chronic pain, Matthew Jones, and he was able to give me insight into how he helps to reduce pain by exercising in young healthy people, something of massive interest we seek to investigate in the future for cancer survivors.

I also managed to attend some great presentations of colleagues and experts in the field:

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Dr Fiona Naumann (above) spoke on the complex considerations for exercise physiologists working with cancer survivors, Carolina Sandler gave great insight to the Post-Cancer Fatigue experienced by survivors, and how exercise therapy can help manage this, whilst Simon Rosenbaum discussed his research improving the mental health issues for patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In terms of cancer & exercise research, there was also other great talks on reducing side-effects of Prostate cancer treatment by Brad Wall and Tina Skinner, and a pre-surgery exercise program by Andrew Murnane. Anna Meares OAM, olympic medalist for cycling also presented her amazing story of recovering from a fractured neck vertibrae only to return and win a silver medal at the London games.

 

Overall, it was a fantastic few days – and to top it off, I was very surprised and honoured to be awarded a research award for my work.

 

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Check out the Twitter feed for the ESSA conference #ESSA14 

 

Now, I return to Sydney with a whole range of new ideas, more potential researchers to do further work with as I set the bar high with what we can achieve and assist as many future survivors as we can.

 

Please add me on twitter, ask questions, share our quest with other survivors, follow and most of all, just get out there and get active! We are here to help!

Your exercise physiologist,

David

Twitter – @Davemiz_EP

E-mail – d.mizrahi@unsw.edu.au

exerciseoncologyaustralia.wordpress.com

 

Weekly Walking Challenge – Day 4

So at the half way point of the weekly walking challenge that we have set for ourselves today, think to yourself if you are happy with your progress, and what will you achieve for both a) the rest of the week and b) next week.

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The general recommendation by the American Cancer Society and American College of Sports Medicine is 150 minutes/week – so 30 mins x 5 days a week is common.

Can you make time to go for 2x walks over the weekend? 

 

Here are some handy tips:

* plan the day before for when you will exercise

* go for morning walks, to avoid procrastination of leaving it until the afternoon

* take a friend/family member with and make it social

* get a pedometer and measure step count (aiming for 10,000 steps/day)

* get on/off the bus 2-3 stops early and walk to the stop

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Keep a tally of how many minutes you achieve each session and per week, write it on a piece of paper and stick it on the fridge as a reminder/motivator. Every week your goal is to maintain or increase the amount. 

 

You can do it! Get out there, feel good, be strong, live life, be empowered, be positive!

 

Your Exercise Physiologist,

David