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    Coping With Cancer-Related Fatigue

    How Does Exercise Impact Energy Level?

    Decreased physical activity, which may be the result of cancer or treatment, can contribute to tiredness and lack of energy. Scientists have found that even healthy athletes forced to spend extended periods in bed or sitting in chairs develop feelings of anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

    Regular, moderate exercise can decrease these feelings, help you stay active and increase your energy. Even during cancer therapy, it is often possible to continue exercising. In fact, research has shown that cancer patients who perform a moderate exercise routine have a better quality of life and may have better outcomes.

    Here are some exercise guidelines to keep in mind if you have cancer:

    • Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
    • A good exercise program starts slowly, allowing your body time to adjust.
    • Keep a regular exercise schedule.
    • The right kind of exercise never makes you feel sore, stiff, or exhausted. If you experience soreness, stiffness, exhaustion, or feel out of breath as a result of your exercise, you are overdoing it.
    • Most exercises are safe, as long as you exercise with caution and don't overdo it. Among the safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, and low-impact aerobics (taught by a certified instructor). These activities carry little risk of injury and benefit your entire body.

    How Can I Lower Stress if I Have Cancer-Related Fatigue?

    Managing stress can play an important role in combating cancer-related fatigue. Here are some suggestions that may help.

    1. 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 to reducing stress.
    2. 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, as well. Other people with cancer understand what you are going through.
    3. Relaxation techniques such as audiotapes that teach deep breathing or visualization can help reduce stress.
    4. Activities that divert your attention away from fatigue can also be helpful. For example, activities such as knitting, reading, or listening to music require little physical energy but require attention.

    If your stress seems out of control, talk to a health care professional.

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