Exercising with Resistance Bands when you have Cancer
When you have cancer, exercise can not only improve your outlook on life and make you feel happier, it can also help support your immune system.
Ty Bollinger, from The Truth about Cancer, states that exercise “enhances your immune system (specifically the lymphatic system) preventing the growth and spread of disease-causing organisms in your body. A strong immune system is your best defense against cancer.” 
Exercise during cancer can include resistance bands, yoga, light weight lifting, swimming, walking, etc.
If you’re interested in yoga, read my article: 9 Perfect Yoga Poses for Someone with Cancer.
(Also, be sure to read: 10 Safety Tips for Exercising when you have Cancer)
1) Portable – You can easily place them in your purse, car, suitcase, etc. for easy transportation.
2) Affordable – A single resistance band (like the one to the right) ranges from $8-15. If you’re looking for a set so you have more options (like the one below) they range from $20-35.
3) Flexibility – They can be used just about anywhere; the park, the office, home, on the road, etc.
4) Variety – You can work just about every area of your body, at different levels of resistance, and in different motions.
5) Offers different levels of resistance – So whether you’re a beginner or expert, feeling extra tired or have more energy, there’s a resistance band perfect for you.
6) Can be used when you’re alone – You don’t need a spotter or a gym membership to reap the benefits of resistance bands.
What Types of Exercises can you do with Resistance Bands if you have Cancer?
1) Lateral Raise
To do this, begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and on the center of the band. With your arms down at your side and palms facing in, grip both handles. Raise either one arm at a time or both arms out to the side until you are level with your shoulders. Lower back down slowly. Do 5-10 times.
To make this easier, stand with one foot on the band and the other foot behind slightly to make balancing easier. You can also raise only one arm at a time instead of both.
2) Bent-Over Rows
Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart on the center of the band. Bend your knees slightly and bend your torso forward. Hold each handle and with your elbows bent, pull your arms up to your waist. You should feel your shoulder blades begin to squeeze together and your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle. Lower slowly and perform 8-10 times.
(You can view this exercise in the “Home Workout for Cancer Patients” video below.)
3) Standing Biceps Curl
To do a standing biceps curl, stand with your feet on the band and shoulder-width apart. With your arms down at your sides, grab both handles. And with your palms facing in front of you, bend your elbows and pull your arms up until they are level with your shoulders. Slowly lower your arms back down and do 10-12 curls.
To make balancing easier, stand with one foot on the band and the other foot behind slightly.
(This exercise can be seen in the “Home Workout for Cancer Patients” video below.)
4) Lateral Band Walk
If you have a loop band, step into that. If not you can tie a band around your lower legs, just above both of your ankles. Next, place your feet shoulder-width apart, squat slightly, shift your weight to one side and step sideways with the other foot. Move the leg that you had your weight shifted to toward the foot you just stepped out with and go back and forth. Make sure you don’t let the band become loose. If you have enough room, “walk” sideways for 8-10 steps then head back in the other direction.
5) Chest Press
Begin this exercise by tying a knot in the band (you can watch the video below to see where and how to tie the knot). Place the band behind your back and hold the handles with your palms facing inward. Next push your arms out straight. Do this 5-10 times.
To make this a little easier, sit on a chair.
(This exercise is shown in the “Home Workout for Cancer Patients” video below.)
6) Overhead Triceps Press
First, place your feet shoulder-width apart and stand on one end of the band, near the handle. Grip the other handle and with the band going up behind you, press your arm up toward the ceiling. Rotate your palms to face forward as you fully extend your arm. Lower your arm back slowly. Repeat this 5-10 times then switch sides.
(You can see this exercise in the provided “Home Workout for Cancer Patients” video.)
Begin by standing on the band with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the handles and bring your hands to be level with your shoulders. Bend at your knees and do a squat. Keep your chest up and abs firm as you bend down. Slowly stand back up and repeat 5-8 times.
8) Standing Chest Press
To begin, wrap the band around the back of a column or other study support that is around chest level. Grab each handle and step several feet away. Making sure your back is toward the column so you are facing away from it. Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart with one slightly more forward than the other. Position your hands at chest level and bring your elbows back. With your palms facing down toward the ground, press the band straight out in front of you until your arms are fully extended. Slowly return to the starting position. Do this 10-12 times.
Watch this short video, “Home Workout for Cancer Patients“, to see some exercises that are recommended for someone with cancer.
It includes exercises with ankle weights, resistance bands (including some of the above exercise), and exercises to strengthen your core.
It’s important not to overexert yourself. Exercise so you feel better, stronger, and healthier; not to the point that you’re just plain exhausted.
I realize this can be more difficult if you’ve chosen to use chemotherapy, as a very common side effect is fatigue.
The point is, listen to your body. Do the amount of exercise you feel is helpful and consult your oncologist before beginning an exercise routine to find out what limitations you should be considering.
Resistance bands are quite safe and provide many benefits. However, you do need to inspect them before each use (especially if they are older) as they can degrade over time. If a band is weakened, it can break and cause injury. Also, if the band is attached to an object, for certain exercises, be certain that it is securely attached.
Some resistance bands contain latex. So if you have a latex allergy, you may want to consider getting a latex-free product, like the one to the right.
If you have cancer that has spread to your bones (or other health issues affecting your bones), please take extra caution as your bones may be more brittle.
*Disclaimer: This information is for cancer patients in general and your doctor may recommend you refrain from certain exercises, or change the intensity, depending on the type/stage of cancer you have. Exercising when you have cancer is very important to your health and healing, but talk to your doctor and/or physiotherapist before beginning an exercise routine. For more information on exercising safely when you have cancer, click here.
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