Your cancer or the treatments may make you feel drained, leaving you lying in bed or sitting in chairs for hours. Such inactivity can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, weakness, and further fatigue.
Regular, moderate exercise can ease those feelings, help you stay active, and give you more energy. Even during cancer treatment, you may be able to keep exercising. Here are some tips:
- Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
- A good exercise program starts slowly, allowing your body time to adjust.
- Keep a regular exercise schedule. Try to be active at least 150 minutes a week. If you're just starting, build up to this over time.
- The right kind of exercise never makes you feel sore, stiff, or exhausted. If you have soreness, stiffness, or exhaustion, or feel out of breath, you are overdoing it.
Most exercises are safe as long as you are careful and don't overdo it. Swimming, brisk walking, stationary cycling, and low-impact aerobics (taught by a certified instructor) are good choices. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about exercises that are safe for you.
Managing stress can play an important role in fighting fatigue. Here are some suggestions that may help.
Adjust your expectations. For example, if you have a list of 10 things you want to accomplish today, pare it down to two and leave the rest for other days. A sense of accomplishment goes a long way toward reducing stress.
Help others understand and support you. Family and friends can be helpful if they can "put themselves in your shoes" and understand what fatigue means to you. Cancer groups can be a source of support, too. Other people with cancer understand what you are going through.
Relaxation techniques like deep breathing or visualization can reduce stress. Doing things that divert your attention away from fatigue can also be helpful, like knitting, reading, or listening to music.
If your stress seems out of control, talk to a health care professional.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Although cancer-related fatigue is a common side effect of cancer and its treatments, you should mention your concerns to your doctor. There are times when fatigue may be a clue to an underlying medical problem. Other times, there may be things your doctor can do to help control fatigue.
Be sure to let your doctor or nurse know if you have:
- Shortness of breath
- Side effects from treatments (such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite)
- Anxiety or nervousness