Exercises For Cervical Cancer: How To Get Moving

  • 6 mins read
  • Health Conditions
  • Written by: Dr. Jatin Bhide
prevent cervical cancer

Does exercise work in cancer? Can I work out while on my chemo? These are some questions that linger in many minds. The answers to such questions is a simple yes, period!

Exercise has been proven to be beneficial in preventing many different cancers including cervical cancer. Reports suggest that just a 30-minute workout per week or taking part in any physical activity or exercise routine more than 4 times a month can significantly reduce the risk factors for developing cervical cancers in women. 

This is still true when considering other risk factors, for instance smoking, and familial history of cancer. In comparison, women who are not physically active are 2.5 times more prone to develop cervical cancer.

Some other reports suggest that women diagnosed with cervical cancer have 37% lesser chance of dying from the cancer if involved in regular physical activity.

In relation to other risk factors such as smoking and alcohol intake, it can be clearly seen that if you seek support for getting involved in regular exercise, you are more likely to stop or quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake as well.

Apart from hysterectomy and other surgical procedures, cervical cancer treatment also include chemotherapy and radiotherapy which can be both pre- and post-operative. A significant reduction in the quality of life is usually seen in the patients during and following the treatment.

Exercise and rehab are reported to benefit patients a lot to manage the side effects. But how exactly? Let’s find out.

To find out if you are at a risk of cervical cancer, you can always take our quick risk assessment check.

 

Benefits of cancer rehabilitation and exercise

Since cervical cancer occurs in the lower part of the body, specifically the pelvis region, an exercise routine involving pelvic exercises, pilates, yoga, etc are considered suitable. These exercises aid an easier transport of blood and oxygen in the surrounding tissues and keeping you fit overall. Doing yoga and other meditative exercises could help you detox your body by reinvigorating the respiratory organs as well the circulatory system.

Let’s find out the benefits of doing exercises and taking part in the cancer rehab with a trained specialist during the treatment.

  • Exercise increases the effectiveness of cancer therapy, making it easier for the body to get treated a bit quicker compared to no exercise.
  • Cancer treatment can make you feel tired and less enthusiastic for doing any physical activity and hence, fatigue. Exercise can help you reduce fatigue and the negative effects associated with it.
  • Maintaining cardiovascular fitness is vital during treatment and exercise has been shown to help.
  • Exercise helps to maintain muscle strength following muscle weakness caused by the treatment.
  • In case of lymphedema, which is characterized by leg swelling and pain, exercise, especially yoga and other aerobic workouts can help clear the clogs in the lymph nodes to reduce the swelling and pain.

Not all exercises have to be of high intensity and tiring. Resting and sleeping are equally important for the body’s recovery. Exercises like yoga, stretching and meditative practices can help you get a good sleep and relax your body during and after the treatment.

For those who exercise regularly, it can be really difficult to start the treatment right away and stop their daily routine. Despite this, keeping an exercise routine can help you stay fit physically and psychologically.

Benefits of different exercise types for cervical cancer

Let’s discuss the benefits of some most effective exercise routines to follow, following cervical cancer treatment.

Pilates

Pilates is considered the perfect form of flexibility exercise in cervical cancer prevention and also patients under rehab. Pilates equipment can also be used to assist and resist the muscle movement to have a customized exercise pattern.

In Pilates, the focus is mainly on the deep core muscles which includes the pelvic floor, deep abdominal regions, spinal muscles and the diaphragm. These areas are affected deeply during the cervical cancer treatment causing pain and muscle fatigue. Pilates helps in the re-training of these core muscles and helps in returning the vigour and vitality of the muscles in returning the body to full function.

Pilates also works on the range and strength of the muscle movements making it easier for them to return to their normal function and even become stronger than before.

Yoga for cervical cancer

Yoga as an exercise for cervical cancer patients can help strengthen the pelvic region. That is, after all, the main region which needs to be strengthened in order to reduce your chances of getting the cancer, and even after the treatment as a rehab.

Benefits of yoga include:

  • Mind and body relaxation by reducing the stress, anxiety levels.
  • Improved blood circulation.
  • Lesser occurrence of unexplained bleeding.
  • Helps in strong muscle development.
  • Reduced pain and urinary discomfort.

Some yoga poses to achieve the above benefits are:

Mountain pose (Tadasana), Chair pose (Utkatasana), Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana), Locust pose (Salabhasana).

Keep in mind that before doing these yoga poses, it is extremely important to consult a specialist and do them correctly.

Strength training exercises

As we’ve talked about a lot of muscles here, you may’ve guessed it correctly that we need to strengthen our muscles and bones in order to have an effective treatment and reduce the treatment-related side effects.

Strength training exercises have the following wonderful benefits:

  • Maintain or increase your muscle mass.
  • Increased bone density.
  • Prevent falling.
  • Reduced cancer-related fatigue.
  • Improved mood and overall quality of life.

Strength training routine, after consulting a clinician as well a fitness expert, should be done at least twice a week, and according to the routine advised.

In case of metastases, where the cancer has spread to bones and other regions, always consult your oncologist before starting a routine.

Some examples of the strength training that you can start are:

  • Straight Leg Raise: Quadriceps (thigh muscles)
  • Standing Hip Flexion: Quadriceps and Iliopsoas (thigh muscles)
  • Heel Lifts: Gastrocneumius and Soleus (calf muscles)
  • Wall Slides & Standing Squats: Standing, Sitting, or Lying Alternating Elbow-to-Knee: Abdominals.

Summary

Now that you know how important exercise is in not just preventing cervical cancer, but in leading a healthier lifestyle overall, it is key to get up and get moving.

References:

Imelda, F., Darti, N. A., & Siregar, F. L. S. (2020). Effectiveness of physical exercise toward decreased fatigue in cervical cancer. Enfermeria clinica, 30, 127-131.

Hojman, P., Gehl, J., Christensen, J. F., & Pedersen, B. K. (2018). Molecular mechanisms linking exercise to cancer prevention and treatment. Cell metabolism, 27(1), 10-21.

Newton, R. U., & Galvao, D. A. (2008). Exercise in prevention and management of cancer. Current treatment options in oncology, 9(2), 135-146.

Schirrmacher, V. (2019). From chemotherapy to biological therapy: A review of novel concepts to reduce the side effects of systemic cancer treatment. International journal of oncology, 54(2), 407-419.

DiStasio, S. A. (2008). Integrating yoga into cancer care. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 12(1).

Kimmel, G. T., Haas, B. K., & Hermanns, M. (2014). The role of exercise in cancer treatment: bridging the gap. Current sports medicine reports, 13(4), 246-252.

Gautam, A. P., Maiya, A. G., & Vidyasagar, M. S. (2011). Effect of home-based exercise program on lymphedema and quality of life in female postmastectomy patients: pre-post intervention study. J Rehabil Res Dev, 48(10), 1261-8.

WANG, F. (2021). Effect of Pilates exercise therapy on bladder function and quality of life of postoperative patients with cervical cancer in young and middle-aged patients. Chinese Journal of Practical Nursing, 1240-1246.

Govardhan, H. B., Nelson, N., & Khaleel, R. M. (2018). Development of Comprehensive Yoga Program for Cervical Carcinoma. J Integr Oncol, 7(206), 2.

Hanson, E. D., Wagoner, C. W., Anderson, T., & Battaglini, C. L. (2016). The independent effects of strength training in cancer survivors: a systematic review. Current oncology reports, 18(5), 31.