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woman trainer helping woman on excercise machineBeing Active After Treatment: Top Twitter Tips for Survivors

Last week marked National Cancer Survivors Day, a day for almost 14 million Americans. After treatment (and during), research suggests that being active can help survivors in numerous ways, but it’s a challenge to spur even the healthiest among us to be active. How do health professionals who work with survivors, and survivors themselves, get motivated to be active?

That was the focus of our latest online chat, held on twitter. Here are a few highlights from the discussion.

Why does physical activity makes a difference for survivors?

Our participants overwhelmingly chimed in that being active has made a positive difference for their patients or, if survivors, in their own life. Here are a few excerpts:

  • “More than 60% of cancer patients will survive more than 5 yrs – that’s a lots of time to build healthy habits.”
  • “For some, the empowerment from having something they can do that makes a difference is important.”
  • "Breast, colon and all-cause mortality are reduced the most (41-61%) by exercise 30 min/day, 5 days/wk."
  • “I am a breast cancer survivor & credit the majority of my health during & after treatment to my exercise routine. Exercise is my #1 treatment!”

What helps motivate survivors to get active?

People had a lot of different ideas:

  • “I definitely share research and stats with patients - they motivate and inspire people to start and maintain exercise.”
  • “The best time to talk exercise with patients: when a side effect will improve (fatigue, anxiety, insomnia) & when their main fear is recurrence.”
  • “Most people respond to small steps - add increments throughout day to get to 30 min; then lump them together as intentional exercise.”
  • Some people may like a big goal, for example, training for a 5K run.”

What is the role of strength exercises, like weight lifting or stretch bands?

The latest physical activity recommendations for cancer survivors include doing strengthening exercises twice a week, the same as for the general population. Weight lifting and other strength exercises help preserve and build muscle but can also strengthen the bones, helping to prevent osteoporsosis in women. But women often shy away from strength exercises. Twitter participants agreed that these exercises can seem scary, and many are not used to the moves or equipment. Here a few excerpts:

  • “I started lifting weights within 5 days of having my cancer surgery. Empowering feeling.”
  • “Start light. A small study suggests that lifting light weights slowly can stimulate muscle protein synthesis.”
  • “Many hear old fears of weights – epecially breast cancer survivors. New study says it can be safe for women with lymphedema post-breast cancer to lift heavy weights. (But find a trainer who specializes in working with survivors)”

To help people get started, we discussed ideas for tools and resources for that motivate individuals to move more and keep it up.

This was a lively discussion – participants were passionate about their favorites:

  • “Pedometer! Helps most if goal is set & results tracked.”
  • “I love Mapmywalk app!”
  • “A cool tool that I just learned about is the Up bracelet (by Jawbone). Tracks activity, sleep and you can input diet.”
  • “And, a new one for me: google uses GPS to help track miles walked.”
  • “Personal trainers can be of value but experience with cancer survivors is invaluable. Find Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer for cancer survivors.”
  • “Dogs are a great way to get people walking! Not to mention all the other great benefits of pet companions.”

You can read the entire chat on our site: Helping Cancer Survivors Be Active

More Resources for Survivors from AICR:

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