If you or a loved one received a mesothelioma diagnosis, keeping up with an exercise regimen may be the last thing on your mind. This disease can cause physical pain and make it difficult to breathe. The side effects of treatment often include fatigue. Overall, the experience of having mesothelioma can leave someone feeling physically, mentally and emotionally drained.
Ironically, these are all reasons why physical activity should be considered a high priority.
Still, it’s understandable that you’d be hesitant to take up an exercise routine. Maybe the solution to your dilemma is taking things slow and adopting a regimen that can ease you into physical activity.
Aquatic therapy for mesothelioma patients is one option.
What is aquatic therapy?
When you see a pool, the first thing that may come to mind is the idea of doing lap after lap of strenuous aerobic swimming. Don’t worry – pools are more versatile than that.
The Aquahab Physical Therapy program describes aquatic therapy as a regimen that promotes physical function, motion and flexibility. Sessions usually take place in warm water, which makes you feel buoyant and reduces the force of gravity acting against your body.
Aquatic therapy is often prescribed to injured athletes or arthritic patients, but it can also be valuable for those who develop lymphadema or have problems with chronic pain.
Experts from the Hospital for Special Surgery list several potential benefits of aquatic therapy for mesothelioma patients:
- Better circulation, which can reduce swelling.
- Decrease in pain.
- An easier transition to aerobic exercises that may be more difficult to do on dry land.
- Environmental stimulation, which can be fun and a real boost to your morale.
Additionally, any exercise will maintain your body’s ability to take in and use oxygen, which is important when you have a respiratory disease like mesothelioma. Also, keeping your muscles and joints strong is an important aspect of living independently.
However, aquatic therapy isn’t right for everyone. You shouldn’t practice aquatic therapy if you have problems with incontinence, cardiac failure, fevers, infectious diseases, seizure disorders or open wounds.
How do you practice aquatic therapy?
If you’re interested in taking up an aquatic therapy regimen, talk to your healthcare team about your options. They may be able to refer you to a program, or have tips for exercises and drills. Your doctor will also tell you if you’re physically fit enough to handle exercise.
The Mayo Clinic’s website actually provides several examples of aquatic exercises. Here’s a couple to consider:
- In waist-high water, walk across the pool swinging your arms the same way you would on dry land. Don’t tiptoe, but keep your back straight. Keep your abdominal muscles tight so you don’t fall forward or to the side. You can increase resistance by wearing special webs on your hands.
- Tie a water noodle around one of your feet. Stand with your back and arms against the side of the pool. Raise your leg until it’s straight in front of you, flex the knee to a 90-degree angle, then straighten it again. Repeat this 12 to 15 times, or until you’re fatigued. Tie the noodle around the other foot to exercise that leg afterward.
If, after a while, you feel you’re ready to pump up your routine, that’s fantastic. But remember to take things slow. A good rule of thumb is to increase the length and intensity of your activity by no more than 10 percent a week.