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Staying Strong and Active During Cancer Treatment

Read Time: 2 minutes

Patient using fitness equipment while provider guides them through the exercises

Cancer treatment goes beyond medical procedures. It requires a whole-person approach that includes physical activity and nutrition. The Wellness and Integrative Health Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute empowers patients to stay active throughout treatment and beyond.

The POWER Program: Building Strength

The POWER program creates personalized exercise programs to combat fatigue, muscle loss, and other side effects.

It is estimated that 80% to 90% of patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy report fatigue and reduction of energy. Exercise is crucial for improving cancer-related fatigue.  The POWER program has published research on the importance of exercise during cancer treatment and found that regular exercise improves muscular endurance, function, and strength.

“I treat many patients with prostate cancer, and one of the foundations of treatment is to suppress testosterone. Men with suppressed testosterone experience fatigue, anxiety, depression, hot flashes, and decreased muscle mass, which can significantly impair function and quality of life. I refer patients to the POWER program for an assessment and personalized exercise plan to help manage fatigue and improve strength and endurance.”

Neeraj Agarwal, FASCO, MD
Presidential Endowed Chair of Cancer Research and director of the Center of Investigational Therapeutics, Huntsman Cancer Institute

The POWER program also offers in-person and virtual options, ensuring accessibility for all patients. This personalized approach empowers patients and improves their quality of life.

Group Fitness: Building Community

Free weekly group fitness classes cater to varied interests and activity levels. These classes, offered in-person and online, provide a supportive community for patients, caregivers, and staff. Activities like Tai Chi, yoga, and Pilates improve strength, flexibility, and endurance, while combating treatment side effects.

Incorporating the POWER program and group fitness classes into a care plan allows patients "to improve their daily functional status and, in many cases, feel stronger and more fit than prior to their diagnosis of cancer,” according to Douglas Sborov, MD, MS, director of the Multiple Myeloma Program at Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Palliative care physician Gabrielle Langmann, MD, teaches a weekly yoga class and explains, "I've been very grateful to volunteer time as a yoga instructor at the Wellness Center and am continuing to learn more and more about how the Wellness Center provides so much benefit to Huntsman patients and families.” 

The communal aspect of these classes fosters a sense of belonging and camaraderie among participants, lifting spirits and providing a collective strength to face the challenges of cancer treatment together.

Nutrition: Fueling Your Body

Nutrition is vital before, during, and after treatment. The Wellness Center's nutrition program offers guidance on healthy eating to manage side effects and support overall well-being. Dietitians help patients manage diet-related challenges and prevent malnutrition, a common complication. The program also explores the benefits of plant-based diets.

“We are beginning to more fully appreciate the impact of diet on overall health during and after cancer treatment. The opportunity for patients to learn about healthy eating, most notably plant-based diets, is a forward-thinking, innovative program not available at most centers across the world.”

Douglas Sborov, MD, MS
Director of the Multiple Myeloma Program, Huntsman Cancer Institute

The POWER program, group fitness classes, and nutrition program work together to provide comprehensive cancer care. This approach addresses the physical, emotional, and psychological needs of patients and their families. By integrating these elements, patients are surviving and thriving.

Cancer touches all of us.