Why Is Exercise So Important?

By Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel
Exercise is absolutely critical when going through cancer treatment – and beyond. It’s critical for anyone. Yet for some, it is the last thing they want to do. It gets shoved to the bottom of the To Do list for the day. Life gets in the way and exercise loses in the mix of busyness.

Growing up, exercise was a major component of each day. In school, we had gym every day. At home, we played outside with our neighbourhood friends. After school, I had weekly dance classes. There was no TV in my young days. We made our own entertainment. Reading was big on my list of a fun, relaxing time.

What I see now is a generation of children growing up exercising only their fingers on a keyboard or bent over a Smartphone as they walk down the street totally oblivious to what is going on around them. As adults, we are doing the same thing – texting, talking on the phone, or bent over an iPad or computer. Exercise, instead of being part of our daily lifestyle, is now an activity we need to build into our lifestyle.

Why Does It Matter?

Given that cancer cannot grow in an oxygenated environment, is it surprising that cancer rates have risen along with the percentage of inactivity among our population? I’m not saying exercise is the only culprit in this scenario, but I’m guessing that it could be a huge one, along with the increase in fast food nutrition.

How Can We Find a Way Out?

There are ways that exercise can be fun and fit into our lifestyle. Not everyone enjoys the same activities for sure, so it’s important to understand that there are many ways to exercise that will give you the desired benefit – more oxygen in your bloodstream.

  1. Walking – this is the easiest and most economical form of exercise available. It requires a good pair of walking shoes and little else. Here are some suggestions for how to find walking opportunities in your daily routine.
    1. Get off the bus a few stops early and walk the rest of the way to your work, an appointment, etc.
    2. Walk the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
    3. Walk a half hour at lunch. I used to eat my lunch at my desk and then run along the river paths at lunchtime when I worked downtown. When I worked in the outlying areas, I still found places to walk or run. It was invigorating to get outside, breathe fresh air, and move after sitting at a computer for hours. It gave my body – and brain – a boost.
    4. If you live in a smaller neighbourhood with stores nearby, walk instead of taking your car.
    5. Get a dog – that will make you walk in the most unwelcoming weather. I know – I did it today. It was windy and drizzling but the dog needed to go outside. Plus, they are great company.
    6. If you need encouragement, get a walking buddy. You will make each other accountable. I have a weekend walking buddy. We have walked many a snowy cold day as well as rainy days. Conversation along the way makes the time go quickly and makes the weather situation a distant consideration.
Walking is a great exercise to adapt to whatever energy level you are at in the moment. Going through cancer treatment, the first week was rough. I was tired and miserable, but I still got out and walked, even if it was a slow trek, I did it. As I felt better, the walks were longer and faster. I was able to walk up the stairs from the beach with fewer stops. My mental state improved as well.
  1. Tai Chi – another gentle exercise program that you can do no matter your age, capacity or physical condition. Tai chi exercises your total body – inside and out – without stress. It opens up all the energy channels and releases blocks that can be stuck from emotional, physical, or mental stressors. For those going through cancer, a huge benefit.
Tai Chi was one of the exercises I did along with walking during my treatment. There was a Tai Chi Club in my area. Not only did I benefit from the movements but also benefited from the support of the group. At that time, I was the only one going through cancer. They kept me grounded, loved, and supported.

Tai Chi was also my meditation. There were days when the treatments made my body restless hindering my ability to sit quietly in mediation. In those moments, I would do my tai chi warm up exercises to dispel the restless energy and then sit in quiet meditation. The combination worked really well. The ‘moving’ component of tai chi also appealed to me as a dancer. Yoga didn’t have the same appeal because it is more static, but I know it does for others.

  1. Rebounding – this is something that most people think is for kids. You see the big trampolines in backyards everywhere. What most people don’t realize is the fact that rebounders (mini-trampolines) are highly effective exercise. NASA uses them in their training program for astronauts.
    1. The movement flushes out the lymphatic system. That’s a huge bonus for someone going through cancer!!! It clears out all the toxins.
    2. It’s time-efficient and effective – 1 minute of rebounding = 3 minutes of regular exercise.
    3. You can set your pace. Just doing gentle bounces on the rebounder will help your system. As you get more fit or feel better, you can advance to more exercises and a more challenging workout.
    4. If you are too unstable or weak to be on the rebounder, you can sit and bounce or have someone bounce for you while you sit. It still works to your benefit.
I’ve had my rebounder since 1979. When my son was a baby, I could put him in his playpen and rebound for my exercise, especially in our cold Alberta winters. Later, I put together a routine of exercises along with a tape I made of music to match the tempo. Putting in a good half hour of rebounding for winter training meant that when the weather cleared, I could go outside and run for an hour – no problem.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I started again on my rebounder in small increments. At first, it was just three (3) minutes. That was all I could do. Gradually, as I healed, I was able to increase the time along with walking so I got outside for fresh air.

The other factor is – IT’S FUN! Get some good music going and the time slips away. It’s like being a kid again.

  1. Dancing – you don’t have to be a dancer to enjoy dancing. Just put on some great music and move. The combination of music and movement will take you to a place of pure joy. You can do it anywhere and as slow or fast as you want. It’s up to you. Energy will flow, emotions will unblock and your body will start to ease up. In the process, oxygen will flood your system.

There’s No Excuse for Not Exercising

In today’s world, there are so many people who are overweight, including children. Diet programs abound. People are sick – chronic illnesses clog our healthcare system. There is heart disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue, back pain, hip and knee replacements, etc  – and then there is cancer. The rates of cancer diagnosis are increasing.

When will we connect the dots?

Exercise, proper nutrition, and stress management are our way back to health. We could lift the burden of healthcare and take back responsibility for our own health. It can start with one step – one small walk around the block.

Over the years, I have always found that exercise helps me eat healthy foods. Junk food just doesn’t appeal after a good workout. The more fit you become, the less you crave those foods that do not add nutrients.

Imagine a world filled with healthy, responsible people. Industry would be more profitable with fewer hours of work. Money going to healthcare would decrease freeing up dollars for other areas of greater benefit. Depression would lessen. Stats show that a huge percentage of people are generally depressed. No wonder. How can you feel good if you are overweight and eat junk food that provides no nutrients to feed your body but stuffs it full of toxins?

We are responsible for our own health. It is not the responsibility of our doctors, our community or our government. It is our responsibility. You can take the steps, as small as they may seem in the beginning, but they will lead you to a better life. One of enjoyment and achievement – a life you can be proud of. Whether you walk, do tai chi, or rebound or join a gym or whatever turns your fancy, your journey will start with the first step and then the next and then the next.

You may have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have to have you. You can change its course. It takes commitment and belief. It is doable. I know. I did it. So can you.

Imagine what that would feel like!!!!!


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