1,2,3...Ready Set Go!

January 12, 2016
Pam McMillan, RN

It's a new year, new you... learn how you can help patients get on a healthy track this year.

Welcome to 2016 — a new year, new you! How many of you made a resolution last year and kept it? According to various reports, 40- 50% of American’s made a New Year’s resolution in 2015, but only 10-15% successfully achieved them. Why is that?

One of the main focuses every year is health. Did you know that according to American Institute for Cancer Research, about one-third of the cancer cases are preventable through healthy diet, exercising and maintaining a healthy BMI?

I have recently heard many patients say, “My doctor told me I need to start exercising and taking better care of myself, but I don’t know how.” I am sure we have all heard it and thought to ourselves, yes, they do need to exercise, eat healthy, and take better care of themselves, but how do we as healthcare providers help that patient? I recently sat down with Shirley Blank, certified personal trainer/oncology exercise specialist, and asked her for simple suggestions to help patients take that first step and start living a healthier life.

When I think of exercise, I think of the gym. But after talking with Shirley, she gave me five suggestions that patients can use to take the first step to becoming healthier and active. These can even be done in the comfort of their own home.

1. Go for a 5-minute bike ride before you even get out of bed. You don’t need a bike to do the motions of riding. You can simply lay in the comfort of your bed and pretend like you are riding a bike (like you probably did as a kid). Some of the benefits of this exercise are that it improves cardiovascular fitness and tones and builds your muscles — especially calves, thighs, and gluteus.

2. As you get out of bed, do 1-minute of arm circles. Start with small circles, forward and backward, and then add medium circles and full circles in both directions. This exercise helps tone your arms by focusing on your upper-arm, shoulder, and chest muscles.

3. As you are watching TV, stand up during commercials and do knee lifts. This can help with your muscle core, which includes abs, hips, and back.

4. Begin with 1 to 5 minutes of guided meditation per day. This can have many benefits for the mind and body. Meditation has been proven to help cancer patients with anxiety and stress, and is also helpful in controlling pain, insomnia, tiredness, and nausea.

5. If nothing else, drink your water daily! The recommended daily intake is 64 ounces of water. It is very important to increase your intake if you are currently going through treatment. Drinking water has many benefits. It helps to remove toxins, raises energy level, promotes healthy skin and a healthy heart, and helps to protect and cushion your vital organs.

Starting with these five simple steps can improve patients’ health. One of Shirley’s mottos is that no matter what you are doing, have fun; exercise doesn’t have to be boring. A great way to do this is to exercise to music that gets you motivated. Shirley also suggests that patients not set their sights too high; doing something is better than nothing. It is also important to remember to take deep breaths. Finally, and most importantly, patients need to educate themselves about exercise.

As we start the New Year, remember that resolutions are not just for January. This is a time to make a lifestyle change. Educate yourself so you can educate your patients. Exercise has many benefits for patients, especially those currently going through treatment. So the next time you hear a patient say they don’t know how to start exercising, don’t just agree — educate them!