The benefits of exercise during cancer treatment are well documented. Regular physical activity can help you beat the treatment blues and control certain side effects such as fatigue and pain. But, patients with blood and marrow cancers like myeloma, leukemia and lymphoma have unique concerns when it comes to safe and healthy exercise. Here are a few things for you to think about before getting started or keeping up your exercise program.
Consider Your Blood Cell Counts When Planning Exercise
Blood and marrow cancers, as well as the treatment of them, can cause a decrease in the number of healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets that you have in your circulation. These lowered cell counts can make your exercise regimen risky or even unsafe.
- Low white blood cells (neutropenia): When your white blood cell counts are low, you have a decreased ability to fight off infections. At this time, you should avoid crowds and keep your exercise routine closer to home. Gyms, swimming pools and locker rooms increase your risk of being exposed to a virus or bacteria that can make you sick.
If you have a fever, don’t push yourself to exercise. Take some time off to help your body heal and recuperate.
- Low red blood cells (anemia): Red blood cells carry oxygen to your organs and tissues. When they are low, they may not be able to keep up with the increased demand put on your body during exercise. You may notice that you get tired much more easily and might have difficulty catching your breath when you exert yourself. During times when you have low red blood cell counts, you should back off on the intensity of your workouts, or avoid them altogether depending on the advice of your physician.