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How do I keep physically fit during COVID-19?

Prof Sandi Hayes, exercise physiologist and principle investigator of the ECHO trial recently presented at the QCGC Research COVID-19 webcast important tips on how to keep active during COVID-19. Her main message was “How do I keep active, not should I be active?”

We know from years of research exercise is important during treatment or after treatment for gynaecological cancer patients.

Exercise during and following cancer has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, lean tissue mass, bone strength, immune function, cognitive state, mood, adherence to treatment, and reduce treatment related side effects and their severity.

To prevent the spread of the virus we have been told to social distance ourselves from others and stay home where possible. Government restrictions closed gyms and recreational centres to avoid large group gatherings. This has changed our daily routines.

However, if you now are working from home it’s a good idea to convert your commute time (we normally spend 1 hour a day commuting to work) to exercise time.

What should we be doing?

  • Exercise 150 minutes of planned exercise per week – ANYTHING is better than nothing. Look for ways to be active around the house. If you need inspiration try looking for work out routines on YouTube or the links below.
  • Try to aim for moderate intensity exercise – you want to be huffing and puffing.
  • Mix it up with a minimum of 2 resistance exercise sessions

Prof Hayes emphasised it’s important for cancer patients to be guided by your symptoms. If you are going from a sedentary state and have not exercised much recently, don’t start with 150 minutes per week. Instead, start with low intensity exercise and build this up. If your symptoms don’t get worse then you have got your balance right. It’s common to have some pain, fatigue, or lymphedema during cancer which can impede exercise, so start at a lower level than what you think you can do.

For example,

  • You can exercise at home. Try weight training or follow some of the examples listed below.
  • Go for a daily walk. The Corona virus is not airborne, which means that walking outside is fine. You want to build up to walking that makes you sweat, huff and puff. 
  • If you need to attend an appointment, you can park a kilometre away and walk the remainder of the distance. Carrying bags or a back-bag will increase your exercise level.
  • Dancing and shaking it out is great for fun but also great for fitness.
  • If you can’t walk, perform exercise of your upper limbs.

Some helpful links Prof Hayes provided to get you started are:

Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) https://exerciseright.com.au/exercise-home

State Cancer Councils https://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/living-with-cancer/exercise-for-people-living-with-cancer.html

Local Government areas: State Cancer Councils https://www.ipswich.qld.gov.au/residents/healthy_lifestyle/active-programs/active-at-home

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