New Year New Resolution. No Gym No Problem.
The start of a New Year always seems to be the right time to rid ourselves of bad habits or establish new ones….“New Year, New Resolutions, New Goals”…. A variation of these thoughts seems to pop up every January. For many others, including myself, one resolution that I find continuously repeating itself is EXERCISE.
My name is Rachel Green and I have been a physical therapist (PT) for 3 years and an oncology-specialized physical therapist for 2.5 years. To make a long story short, I grew a passion for the oncology population early on in my career as the company I worked for, and still work for, offered specialized training through a program called ReVital Cancer Rehab. This program’s mission aligned well with my own of allowing individuals to “live well beyond cancer”. Throughout this journey, I have met some of my dearest friends, many of which are breast cancer survivors or currently kicking cancer’s butt. As a PT, one of my passions is to utilize exercise to help provide both mental and physical healing. Something my friends, patients, and family members often ask is… “How can I establish an exercise routine without having to put myself in the busy, sometimes intimidating, and often costly environment of a gym?” Well, I am here to tell you that there is a way.
Despite contrary beliefs, going to the gym is NOT the only way to achieve an effective workout. Planned physical activity/exercise can be any movement that uses your muscles to burn more energy than compared to resting. Believe it or not, this could mean having a dance party, gardening, playing Frisbee, going on a hike, etc. Therefore, being physically active does not require a gym membership nor exercise class. However, if we are speaking honestly, as humans, there are always barriers than can prevent us from participating in exercising regularly. As a physical therapist, these are some of the most common barriers I have observed:
- Still going through active cancer treatment/ or just finishing treatment
- Decreased motivation/not knowing where to start
- Not enjoying traditional methods of exercise
- Hesitation to being in crowded gym environments
So, the million-dollar question… “What can I do to stay active but still avoid the gym setting and where do I start?” To answer that question, let’s start with a few options!
From the Comfort of your home:
Get Outdoors - Go on a walk/run/hike/bike ride: Walking is one of the most underrated forms of exercise yet has so many benefits. It not only helps with cardiovascular fitness, but also fat reduction. Also, for my ladies on any aromatase inhibitors (hormone inhibitor medication) this can also help with bone health. And if you need a little more challenge, then running is also a wonderful option. If you are anything like me and get bored with walks or runs, going on a nature hike is another great alternative. The fresh air, sunshine, and killer views can help with motivation. Or, if you prefer an activity with a little less impact, hop on your bike but don’t forget your helmet!
Body Weight Exercises: Body weight training is also a very much under-utilized activity. Body weight exercises are simple, yet effective and in improving strength. Body weight exercises may include squats, pushups (modified if needed), planks, crunches, lunges, calf raises, jump rope, tricep dips, etc. The list goes on and on! Now, if you are ever wanting to kick it up a notch and progress activity with external resistance, you can even create weights out of house hold items such as cans of soup/water bottles for exercises like bicep curls or shoulder press and raises.
Seated or Laying Down Exercises: At last, one of my favorite types of exercise. If you find yourself having a busy work day or are coming off of treatment and not feeling 100%, these are great options to get the body moving. These exercises include things such as sit<>stands, straight leg raises, knee extension, crunches, ankle taps, shoulder press, shoulder forward/lateral raises, bicep curls, etc. As mentioned above, using a personal set of at home weights can increase the intensity of these exercises.
Dancing/Yoga/Barre: For all the ladies who just don’t enjoy traditional exercise, well you are in luck! Activities such as dancing, yoga, and Barre are all wonderful ways to get moving. Blast your favorite tunes and dance it all out. Additionally, things such as yoga and Barre are equally beneficial for your entire body. For overall health, there is nothing yoga cannot do. Breathing training, flexibility and strength is so beneficial for not only your body but your mind and soul. Additionally, Barre is a ballet-inspired workout that emphasizes strengthening, core, improved cardiovascular function, balance and endurance. You really do not need any special equipment, just a kitchen sink/counter top or a chair to assist with balance when needed.
The recommendations listed above are just a few of the many things you can do from the comfort of your home. There are many educational resources out there from specific body weight exercises to YouTube classes for Yoga, Tai Chi, Zumba, Barre - the list is really unlimited.
If you need a little more guidance and coaching for motivation, below you will find some free & low cost online classes/ free memberships to help get you started
Baylor Scott and White Institute for Rehab Exercise 101 Class: offers a free introduction to exercise class for cancer survivors or for those on active treatment via Zoom. This takes place every Thursday and Friday by appointment. This class provides general exercise recommendations and is taught by a ReVital Cancer Rehab Specialist.
Cancer Rehab & Integrative Medicine: offers low cost virtual classes including but not limited to Yoga, Chair Yoga, Pilates, Cardio, Meditation as well as free fitness videos.
Livestrong at the YMCA: provides free or low cost customized exercise regimens catered to survivors and their individual needs by certified fitness instructors who are trained in cancer survivorship.
On a side note if you aren’t sure on how much exercise you should be doing then I highly recommend checking out my colleague Melanie Miller’s blog post “ Exercising and Breast Cancer- Start Low and Go Slow” where she offers awesome information on how much and how often you should be exercising.
If you still are unsure where to start or what may be best for you, no fear! You can always reach out to your oncologist who can provide a referral to physical therapy or occupational therapy. Trained cancer rehab specialists can provide you with additional resources including an individualized home exercise program utilizing resources you have at home in order achieve personal goals.
Rachel Green is a physical therapist and certified lymphedema therapist who specializes in cancer rehabilitation at Baylor Scott and White Institute for Rehabilitation in Round Rock, TX. Rachel truly loves working with both the oncology population as well as the lymphedema population. She believes this opportunity to work with such a special population was a huge blessing and is grateful to be able to serve these communities. She presents weekly to new patients and patients in survivorship over Exercise 101, tailored to educate patients on how to manage and limit side effects related to cancer diagnoses. She has just joined UMHBs Doctor of Physical Therapy program as an adjunct professor where her colleagues and her are working to establish lymphedema and cancer rehab curriculum into their program. Additionally, Rachel has the opportunity to help influence change on the legislative level as well as help with funding for cancer research to ensure all individuals have access to cancer care if they do not have the financial or physical means to access that care through the ACS Action Network.
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