When you are due to have or have had a blood or marrow transplant it is important to get advice from your doctor or physiotherapist about your exercise regime.
However having cancer or a transplant does not mean that you should stop exercising or not start exercising. Doing any exercise will be better than doing no exercise at all and even a short walk each day can be beneficial. Your quality of life can be improved by the smallest increase in your physical activity.
Exercising can help with side effects after a transplant, for instance –
- Fatigue – energy levels can be improved by taking light to moderate exercise but take care not to do too much physical activity too quickly, increase the amount you do gradually. One of the ways of coping with fatigue is to think of your energy as the money you have in your bank account and when you wake you have so much to spend that day. Spend it wisely during the day so that you have some (energy) left for what is important to you. For instance if having a bath in the morning is your usual routine but it wipes you out physically then leave it till bedtime when you will be able to go to sleep straight afterwards.
- Anxiety and depression – endorphins are released when you exercise which helps to improve mood and if done regularly can reduce depression. You can also look better too as when you exercise the blood and thereby oxygen supply to your skin is improved and if you look better you usually feel better too.
- Sleep problems – exercising can help you sleep better if you take moderate exercise and you don’t exercise too late in the day.
- Stress – it’s not unusual to be stressed when you are going through a blood or marrow transplant. Stress can also be helped by regular exercise as it improves mood and lowers the stress hormone levels.
- Thin bones (osteoporosis) – radiotherapy, prolonged use of steroids and inactivity can all lead to thin bones which can mean you are more likely to break a bone. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, stair climbing or dancing help to keep your bones healthy and strong and reduces your risk of osteoporosis. But if you already have osteoporosis it’s important not to start exercising without taking advice from your doctor, nurse or physiotherapist.
- Co-ordination and balance – exercise may help and the improvement can then reduce your chance of having a fall and possibly a fracture as a result of a fall.
- Constipation – regular exercise, even a short walk each day, can help keep your bowels more regular and prevent constipation.
- Weak muscles – prolonged use of steroids and inactivity can all lead to weak muscles. Exercise helps to improve your muscle strength.
- Pain –Regular exercise builds your muscle strength and improves your flexibility which helps to ease pain in your joints. Also endorphins released during exercise can help to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.
- Poor appetite – even gentle exercise can help to improve your appetite.
When you are leading up to your transplant, check it out with your doctor, but most likely you will be able to carry on with your own exercise routine, if you don’t have one it would be good to get into the habit of exercising before your transplant, even if it is only taking a walk each day. It is likely that this will improve your physical fitness and your body will cope with the transplant better.
When you are in hospital you will have had advice from the physiotherapist. Follow that advice where you can and take advantage of the equipment provided for you in your room. Even walking round your room a few times a day will be better than lying in bed all day. Obviously there may be times when you are unable to get out of bed so you need to be sensible and if in doubt ask your doctor or physiotherapist.
Once you are out of hospital, usually between 3 to 6 weeks following transplant, it is important not to sit around all day every day. If you are not used to exercising, build up gradually, some days you will be able to do more than others and you will not always be able to do more than you did the day before. It is likely to be difficult at first but the effort you put in will bring mental and physical health benefits.
You will have lowered immunity after your transplant and you will need to avoid places like public gyms, always check it out with your clinical team if you are unsure.
Exercising is something that you are in control of and doing for yourself. It builds up your strength and improves your general health making you feel better.
Taking regular exercise can be a really positive influence in helping you to recover from your transplant.
Also see the physiotherapy page on this website for more information.