Cancer care: The importance of gentle exercise

We’ve recently introduced Gentle Exercise classes to our King’s Lynn Support and Information Centre. The 45 minute sessions are run by Gemma Alexander who has over 12 years experience in the fitness and wellbeing industry.

Those that have or had cancer can often be scared to do any exercise.
Light exercise can help your body metabolise the medication you’re on and help recovery, it’s also going to release some endorphins through the body and make you feel happier.

Whether you’re at the start, middle or end of cancer treatment the thought of exercising can seem daunting.

Gemma says: “Those that have or had cancer can often be scared to do any exercise. You feel very fatigued and weak, and many worry that they will probably do more harm than good. But it’s important to understand that doing some light exercise can help your body metabolise the medication you’re on and help recovery, it’s also going to release some endorphins through the body and make you feel happier.

“I would encourage everyone to have faith in themselves, you never know if you’re going to be able to do something if you don’t try.”

Gemma completed a Level 4 Diploma in Cancer Rehabilitation which has given her the knowledge and know how to safely adapt exercises, pitch them at the right level, understand people’s fatigue levels and give enough recovery time. Each session is comprised of around 30 minutes of gentle exercises to strengthen the muscles and joints, followed by a yoga-inspired relaxation time to increase the sense of wellbeing and give participants a moment to switch off and have some ‘me time’.

Wellbeing is a strong theme throughout the sessions. Gemma explains: “Getting to exercise in a small group means you don’t feel isolated and alone. Those that attend the sessions often all go out for coffee together afterwards. There’s a social aspect of joining an exercise class and finding a network. What’s great about these sessions, is that everyone has been affected by cancer, so they all understand the level they’re at and support each other. We have patients come with their carers too and it’s something they can do together.”

Big C has future plans to roll the classes out across its Centres. Acting Director of Charitable Operations Sam Glee says: “Gentle exercise is proven to be so beneficial to those affected by cancer, not just physically but mentally and psychologically. It releases endorphins, boosts energy, morale and physically it helps with healing.

“It can make such a difference to someone’s life, and the sessions at Big C are safe, welcoming and with others that are in a similar position.”

“I want to use the gentle exercise classes to make people feel like they’ve got a little bit more of themselves back, to have some confidence and strength and stamina. It will make you feel better and improve quality of life throughout your cancer journey. Everything, from the physical, mental and social aspects of the sessions helps keep more of a positive outlook, it helps in every way.”

If you’re unable to attend a Big C gentle exercise class Gemma advises:“Just get out and go for a nice walk, it’s as simple as enjoying the countryside or the beach.

“Find a friend or partner that will support you, so you aren’t out there on your own, and take it slow. Do a little bit, then sit down and rest. Make an afternoon of it. The most important thing is just try and do something little and often, with plenty of rest inbetween.”