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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Colorectal Cancer and Fatigue

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How Does Exercise Impact Energy Level?

Decreased physical activity, which may be the result of colorectal cancer or its treatment, can lead 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, weakness, fatigue, and nausea.

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. Exercise also improves the outcome of patients with colorectal cancer.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • 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. Exercise at least 3 times a week.
  • 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. 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 Manage My Stress While I Have Colorectal Cancer?

Managing stress can play an important role in combating the fatigue that be an effect of colorectal cancer. 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 2 and leave the rest for other days. A sense of accomplishment goes a long way to reducing stress.
  1. 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 also can be a source of support -- other people with cancer understand what you are going through.
  1. Relaxation techniques such as audiotapes that teach deep breathing or visualization can help reduce stress.
  1. 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.

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

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