The Benefits of Exercise for Seniors with Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma cancer patients will benefit greatly from regular exercise — on any level — by boosting energy, increasing appetite and improving mood and mental health.

Exercise can become your ally. It will improve your sleep, muscular fitness and cardiorespiratory condition. Total bed rest is no longer a recommended part of cancer treatment.

But exercise is. You will feel better.

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that first attacks the thin membrane around your lungs or abdominal cavity. It is caused mostly by a long-before occupational exposure to asbestos fibers. It typically strikes those who are 60 and older because of its long latency period (20-50 years) between exposure and diagnosis.

Mesothelioma can make breathing difficult, cause chest pain and reduce energy levels, along with other serious side effects.

Exercise, even light and a few times each week, can combat some of those symptoms.

Try These Types of Exercise First

  • Stretching
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Stationary cycling
  • Low impact & water aerobics

“Keeping fit is important. The more [mesothelioma patients] walk the better it is for them,” said thoracic surgeon and mesothelioma specialist Dr. Jacque Fontaine at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. “Some patients say ‘I’m too sick to walk.’ But that’s not the way they should look at it. The more they walk, the stronger they will get, and the better their breathing will be. While the other lung, that’s not affected by mesothelioma, will slowly take over the function of the lung that is diseased.”

Exercise does not have to be structured or difficult. Exercise can be part of your everyday life. It can be doing the dishes or other household chores. It can be folding the laundry, running the vacuum clearer or sweeping the garage. It is moving.

Walking around the block, as slow as you like, is great exercise. So is sitting in a chair and doing calf raises or leg lifts. Do it regularly. There is a reason why mesothelioma doctors encourage patients to get up and walk as soon as possible after surgery. It is good for you.

Don’t Overdo It

There is a risk of overdoing the exercise, so consult with your doctor, nurse or rehabilitation specialist. Many cancer centers offer fitness assessments and exercise training, and they can put together a customized exercise plan.

Mesothelioma patients should avoid extreme cardiovascular exercise that requires optimal lung function. Do not strain or cause pain with exercise. Choose moderate or light exercise. Be careful with lifting, too. Don’t aggravate chest muscles weakened by cancer, or the medications used to combat it.

Start slowly and carefully in whatever exercise you do. Build stamina by adding a few repetitions each week. Fatigue after chemotherapy can be debilitating, so scale back — but don’t stop your exercise routine entirely.

Join Others Who Exercise

If it is possible, join an exercise group. Getting others involved will motivate you to continue. It’s easy to stop with no one around. Having others around will encourage you. Have friends and family join you in workout sessions.

You may discover quickly what exercise will:

  • Reduce stress
  • Lessen any depression
  • Improve physical function
  • Boost energy
  • Increase bone and muscle strength

Remember, even with a cancer such as mesothelioma, exercise can become your friend and ally. Just give it a try and see.