How the Gym Helped ‘Get My Act Together’ After Cancer

Todd Allen and his wife took a European trip seven years ago.

He felt terrible by the time they got home.

Blood tests revealed cancer. Stage 4. Bone marrow.

Todd went through 18 months of chemotherapy and had knee surgery and hip surgery.

Never much for exercise, Todd then made a decision: “After the recovery, I said I gotta get my act together.”

“I’ve been a gym rat ever since,” says Todd, now 65. Now, with a healthy prognosis, he wakes up early each morning to lift weights, run stairs, and do other physical activity. “I look better now than I ever have in my life.”

The Research on Exercise and Cancer

Research proves that exercise is good for our health at any age. Experts say it also helps prevent cancer and lower its risk of recurring. And regular exercise benefits cancer survivors the same way it helps the general population – by reducing obesity and blood pressure, lowering risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, and more.

Strength training is particularly important to help maintain muscle and bone density. People generally lose muscle mass with age, and cancer exacerbates the decline.

The National Cancer Institute shares powerful data about how exercise can reduce the risk of certain cancers:

⦁ Breast cancer by 20 to 80 percent
⦁ Endometrial cancer by 20 to 40 percent
⦁ Colon cancer by 30 to 40 percent

The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia issued formal guidelines that recommend exercise as a part of treatment for all cancer patients. It said:

⦁ Exercise should be a part of standard care for cancer patients to fight the disease and side effects of treatment.
⦁ Treatment teams should promote physical activity, so patients meet exercise guidelines.
⦁ Patients should be referred to an exercise physiologist or physical therapist.

“If we could turn the benefits of exercise into a pill it would be demanded by patients, prescribed by every cancer specialist and subsidized by government,” said Dr. Prue Cormie, author of the organization’s report. “It would be seen as a major breakthrough in cancer treatment.”

A healthy lifestyle should include exercise – which also helps limit other factors like obesity and blood pressure, before and after cancer.

After treatment, exercise helps restore self-esteem and a sense of control, which cancer strips from patients, says Andrea Leonard, founder of the Cancer Exercise Training Institute. “Teaching them to regain control empowers them, increases esteem and confidence, and takes them from victim to survivor.”

‘Let’s Get Some Life While We’re Here’

For Todd Allen, working out at the gym brings him the variety, social interaction, and mental health benefits he craves.

“I love the comradery,” he says. “You have to show up or you get razzed. That’s key for consistency.”

With his health now solid and his outlook bright, Todd is committed to enjoying every day.

“Let’s get some life while we’re here,” he says. “I’m going to hold onto this thing for as long as I can.”

The Research on Exercise and Cancer proves that exercise is good for our health at any age, experts say it also helps prevent cancer.

Trouble Sleeping? Exercise Could Be the Solution

Millions of people don’t get enough sleep every night, even if they know how important it is to their physical and mental health.

And as we age, some people have extra trouble getting the right amount of rest (which varies for each individual, of course).

But here’s one thing everyone should know: Exercise will help you get more and better sleep. Whether it’s walking, running, weightlifting, yoga… Studies are clear that regular, moderately intense exercise improves sleep length and quality.

“Sleep quality and quantity are two important aspects of reducing stress, improving mood and providing lots of energy,” the Functional Aging Institute says. “Lack of sleep and stress go hand in hand.”

The National Sleep Foundation adds, “Not only will getting your zzzs help you perform on a test, learn a new skill or help you stay on task, but it may also be a critical factor in your health, weight and energy level.”

After 65, sleep issues can increase accidents, falls, cognitive decline, depression and more.

Here are a few tips for restful nights.
⦁ Don’t exercise too close to bedtime, since it can stimulate your brain and raise your body temperature, changes that can keep you up.
⦁ Maintain bedtime routines and schedules.
⦁ Get some sunlight every day.
⦁ Keep your bedroom cool, dark and free of electronics.
⦁ Avoid caffeine after noon and too much alcohol close to bedtime.
⦁ Don’t drink much of anything as bedtime approaches; it could make you need to get out of bed.
⦁ Talk to your doctor about chronic issues. You could have sleep apnea or another serious but treatable disorder.

The Research on Exercise and Cancer proves that exercise is good for our health at any age, experts say it also helps prevent cancer.

Healthy Recipe, Double-Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is so named because of how its flesh forms long, tender strands when shredded with a fork after cooking. Its mild taste pairs easily with myriad ingredients. Plus, it’s low in carbs, gluten-free, and high in vitamin A and other essential nutrients. No wonder this pale-yellow, oblong-shaped squash is having a moment with fitness fans.

This recipe, adapted from “Listen to Your Vegetables: Italian-Inspired Recipes for Every Season” (Harvest, $45), offers a handy trick for boosting its deliciousness several notches. After the cut halves steam in the oven, the cooked strands are then spread out on a baking sheet and returned to the oven, allowing the flavors to concentrate and caramelize as the moisture evaporates. Mixed with cheese and herbs and heaped back in its shell, then run under the broiler until bubbly, it becomes your favorite spaghetti sauce’s new best friend. Sorry, pasta! Serves 4. RECIPE HERE. – Susan Puckett

⦁ 2 small spaghetti squash (2 to 2 ½ pounds each)
⦁ Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
⦁ 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for coating the foil
⦁ 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
⦁ 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or chopped oregano leaves, plus more for garnish
⦁ 4 ounces burrata or fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
⦁ Quick Marinara Sauce (recipe follows) or your favorite pasta sauce, optional

⦁ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Set the squash on a cutting board and nestle it in a folded kitchen towel to hold it in place while you cut it. With a heavy, sharp chef’s knife or serrated knife, carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise, rocking the knife gently back and forth after you cut through the skin. (If you’re struggling, you can zap it in the microwave for 3-5 minutes to soften it a bit before cutting.)
⦁ With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard.
⦁ Line a baking sheet with foil and brush it lightly with oil. Season the squash halves well with salt and pepper and drizzle with the tablespoon of olive oil.
⦁ Set the squash halves cut side down on the baking sheet. Roast in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, or until the squash skins are tender to the touch.
⦁ Remove the pan from the oven, leaving the oven on. Let the cooked squash rest for about 10 minutes, allowing it to steam as it slowly cools, then flip. With a fork, gently pull and shred the squash from the skins, forming spaghetti-like strands. Spread the strands on the oiled baking sheet. Set aside two of the squash skins for later.
⦁ Return the baking sheet with the shredded squash to the oven and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized (but not burned) in places and dried out a bit.
⦁ Place the double-roasted squash in a bowl and toss with 1 cup of the parmesan, the thyme or oregano, and plenty of cracked black pepper. Divide the mixture between the two reserved squash skins and top with the burrata and remaining parmesan. (Squash may be kept at room temperature for a couple of hours before broiling.)
⦁ Just before serving, make sure a rack is set about 4 inches the heat source and turn the broiler to high. Place the squash under the broiler for 5 to 6 minutes, or until golden and bubbling and the skins of the squash are slightly charred.
⦁ Remove from the oven, garnish with more herbs, cut in half, and serve with pasta sauce if desired.

Quick Marinara Sauce
Makes 2 cups
⦁ 2 tablespoons olive oil
⦁ 3 cloves garlic (or more or less), minced
⦁ Pinch of red pepper flakes
⦁ ½ cup finely chopped parsley (leaves and stems)
⦁ 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
⦁ 1 bay leaf
⦁ 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
⦁ Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

⦁ In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes, if using, and sauté for a minute, or just until the garlic begins to turn golden. Stir in the parsley and sauté another minute.
⦁ Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, and oregano and lower the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 15 or 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Article Credit Jay Croft, creator and owner of Prime Fit Content.
Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.

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