Body movement may seem the furthest thing from a chemo patient’s mind, but a certain amount of exercise is part of the prescription for healing. Gentle movement will energize the body’s ability to dispel toxins and assimilate the high-octane nutrition from food and supplements. More than 100 studies involving cancer survivors show that exercise is associated with lower cancer recurrence rates and lengthier survival rates.
I’m presenting two types of exercise in this step. One is a series of easy-to-learn and easy-to-practice yoga-type movements. The other is simple walking, an excellent tonic for the physical body, mind, and emotions.
Resting for Healing
A chemo patient shouldn’t need to be told how important it is to rest—many may feel that they are sleeping most of the time, just from feeling the fatigue that is one of the side effects of chemotherapy. But sleeping is a huge part of the healing process when the real body-mending occurs. I recommend ways to rest deeply as a health-giving practice in this section.
A new study conducted at two university hospitals in Denmark confirms other research into the effects of exercise on cancer patients. Both high and low-intensity training could be safely used during chemotherapy treatment but was found to reduce fatigue and improve vitality, aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and physical activity—and expand emotional well-being. In this section, I recommend two excellent forms of exercise that are easy to do and will “move things around” to help speed up the healing process.
The Tibetan Rites
So much has been written about the fantastic Five Tibetan Rites—do an Internet search, and over 50,000 sites will come up. They have been known for many years—some say many centuries—and occasionally take on new popularity, as they did recently when Dr. Oz demonstrated them on his TV show. I will outline some information on the Rites and their health benefits here and then suggest you go to our website for videos demonstrating the exact way to do them.
The Tibetan Rites are five accessible yoga-like positions done once or more daily. Together, they take only about 10-15 minutes to perform. According to the Tibetan lamas, the only difference between youth and old age is the spin rate of the chakras, the body’s seven major energy centers. The chakras turn at high speed in a healthy, youthful body. As we age, the chakras slow down, and the body is open to illness and shows signs of aging. We can regain youth, vitality, and good health by getting the chakras to spin at a higher rate, as they did when we were much younger.
The benefits of doing the Tibetan Rites are many: improved general health, more energy, better clarity of thinking and improvement in memory, less stress, a higher sense of well-being, calm, and a more positive outlook. For cancer patients, the Rites speed up the healing process by activating the body’s energy centers and providing much-needed physical activity to move things around inside and remove toxins from the body.
Each of the five positions is repeated 21 times—you start with 3 or 5 (always an odd number) and gradually work up to 21 over several days or weeks.
The illustrations on the following pages show what the positions look like.
The second exercise I recommend is simple walking. Indeed, this has to be the easiest—and least expensive—exercise in the world. It is also one of the most essential activities for a person in chemo treatment to embrace.
In my study of the literature on cancer healing, time and again, walking comes up as a way to keep bones, muscles, and joints healthy and working right. Walking reduces anxiety and worsens depression—two persistent bugaboos for cancer patients. It also makes it easier to handle stress, to sleep better and deeper, and to feel more energetic in general.
Finally, walking is good for self-esteem. This is so for a couple of reasons. One is that when you finish a walk, you have a sense of accomplishment, making you feel better about yourself. The other is more chemical in nature. Walking—and all physical exercise—releases endorphins into the system. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. That’s why it feels so good to move around. And for a cancer patient, feeling good is good!
Finally, if you walk daily with a friend or family member, you can have a more social life. This can be tremendously helpful in addressing the solitary and isolating nature of illness. Being with and around other people gets us outside of ourselves and more into the swing of life.
Finally, let me say something about resting. I consider resting a critical “activity” when it is done with purpose and mindfulness. Most of the time, a cancer patient undergoing chemo, radiation, and other conventional therapies will rest just because there is no energy to do anything else. There are times, though, when one has a choice to remain semi-active or lie down and rest. I advise lying down and relaxing instead of continuing to putter around the house or pushing yourself into physical activities. Rest is when the body does the more significant part of healing.
While moving around, your body is busy expending the energy it takes to stand, bend, reach, climb, pace, and so on. Even light housekeeping, tidying up the bedroom and bathroom, or wiping off the kitchen counter takes energy that could be used for mending while at rest.
One of the reasons I mention resting here is because I have heard from cancer patients that they sometimes feel guilty that they are not busy doing things—that they might be seen as lazy or entitled, especially when measuring themselves against their tireless caregiver, who appears to be working diligently on their behalf every minute of the day.
Nonsense. If you are undergoing cancer treatment, no one expects you to be full of pep and up to your usual activities. Rest is a blessing. As you drift off to sleep in the middle of the day, you may want