Thursday, November 26, 2015         


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When sick, get going to get well

By Reggie Palma


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All of us have been deeply affected by this disease, either directly or indirectly.

When I was a small child, I had an adult cousin who was suffering from leukemia. At the time, I did not understand what that meant; all I knew was that she took me to the park, played hide-and-seek and ran around with me all day long.

When she died, I was devastated. Her mother told me that my cousin's suffering was finally over. I had no idea she was in pain and what she had gone through in her treatments. I felt so guilty that I "made" her play with me so much.

"Oh, no, Reggie, don't feel that at all," her mother said. "You playing and running around with her so much is what made the last years of her life so enjoyable. You made her feel normal."

NowI am blessed to work with people like my cousin who have been affected by illness. I am always reminded how our play kept her active and how much fun we had even while she was feeling weak.

Physical activity under the correct guidance augments the healing process and optimizes the body to better handle the rigors of cancer treatment. Whether you are a cancer patient or survivor, striving toward a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week has great benefits. Cardiovascular exertion promotes blood flow to all the major systems and encourages the body to self-regulate. It can help increase the appetite commonly suppressed by treatments and aid in digestion of nutrients by facilitating spontaneous gut movement.

Moderate full-body weight training builds and maintains lean body mass, which is generally the first thing lost while undergoing the various modes of treatment. Combining both gives you the benefits of both worlds and will build a strong foundation within your body for the medicine and treatments to work upon.

Before you start, though, keep a few things in mind:

» Start easy. Build yourself up slowly so as not to overtax an already taxed body.

» Keep clean. Be sure to wipe gym equipment to avoid any unnecessary and potentially lethal exposure to bacteria and other pathogens.

» Have fun. Choose an activity that you enjoy and can look forward to. Do what my cousin did and play!

Reggie Palma is an exercise physiologist and personal trainer. See his website at

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