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Hiking, Climbing, and Other Outdoor Activities for Cancer Patients

Cancer patients and survivors in remission often feel weak. Their bodies have been deeply affected by the cancer as well as the treatments used to slow the progression of the disease. While rest is important, evidence also suggests cancer patients and those in remission can benefit from physical activity and exercise.

Evidence also proves spending time outdoors is important for mental health and overall wellness. Activities like hiking and rock climbing help patients benefit from both physical exercise and being outside. After getting the green light from their medical teams, every patient should try these activities. However, everyone should move at their own pace, starting slowly if necessary and relying on professionals for guidance and support.

Cancer Patients and Survivors Need Exercise

Experts agree that cancer patients and survivors need regular physical activity.  It doesn’t matter what activity individuals use. Research proves cancer patients who exercise have less fatigue and function better than those who do not.  These patients experience improved cardiovascular function and muscle strength. They also maintain healthier weights and feel better about their bodies. However, the ultimate benefit to physical activity is improved quality of life. If possible, all patients going through treatment, as well as cancer survivors, should get regular exercise to a degree appropriate for each individual.

Hiking, Mountain Climbing, and Outdoor Sports

While hiking and mountain climbing may seem inappropriate for cancer patients, they can be scaled to meet individual limitations. It is important to clear activities with your doctor before you begin. Because these sports are challenging, they may be better for patients finished with treatment or in remission. However, those in treatment can begin an exercise program now. Consider it training for these outdoor sports, providing an exciting goal to work toward.

  • Hiking. A hike can be a simple one-mile stroll on trails at your city park, or as involved as a multi-day trek through rugged terrain. Hiking can be scaled to match individual abilities. As patients regain strength, they can increase hiking difficulty and length.
  • Rock Climbing. You can safely practice this activity indoors, then take it outside when you’re ready. Rock climbers scale rock faces, either on real cliffs or on artificial indoor rock walls. If you work with trained professionals and use proper safety equipment, rock climbing can be a fun and safe outdoor activity.
  • Bouldering. Bouldering is a type of climbing typically done in groups. Usually done without ropes, they can be added for safety. Bouldering is a challenging social activity. However, not all cancer patients will be ready for it. If you’re interested in this sport, you can first practice on a gym climbing wall with a trainer.
  • Mountain Climbing. Mountain climbing combines rock climbing and hiking to reach a mountain peak. This activity is strenuous and requires significant training. Patients recovering from cancer may use this sport as a goal, working toward participation when they regain strength.
  • Geocaching. For physical exercise, mental stimulation, and social activity, it’s hard to beat geocaching. Both a game and a social sport, geocaching does not require strenuous activity.Participant use GPS coordinates or clues to find outdoor hidden caches.

Why Outdoor Sports?

Though any type of exercise is recommended as long as it is safe, there are additional reasons to choose an outdoor activity. These are sports often require you to go beyond city streets out into areas where you can experience nature. Being out in nature has positive mental health benefits. Cancer patients and survivors often struggle with stress, depression, and anxiety. However, spending time outdoors provides a significant mood boost.

Also, outdoor activities are often social sports. While social activities are good for anyone, cancer patients may receive huge benefits. Social activities reduce isolation and promote strong friendships. A strong social network is particularly important for cancer patients, improving cognition and increasing survival rates.

Outdoor sports like hiking and rock climbing have the potential to provide significant benefits for cancer patients because they offer physical activity, time outdoors, and social interaction. There are benefits to physical, mental, and social health. However, patients undergoing treatment and those in remission should take care not to overdo it.

If you are interested in outdoor sports, talk to your doctor about your specific limitations. Even if your doctors advise against participating in these demanding sports, you may be able to start small.  You can begin working with an experienced trainer, receiving the benefits of physical activity while working toward bigger outdoor activities.

Page Edited by Dave Foster

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Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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