The Number 2 Reason for Exercise

Poop. Yes, I’m going to write about poop, a subject most people don’t give too much thought to.

When I started climbing I thought a lot about it. Mountaineering distills life to it’s most basic elements: food, water, the need for shelter, and elimination. In the mountains, it’s important to think about poop and safety: how and where to do it so we don’t destroy the environment, compromise the health of ourselves or others, and protect ourselves (as in, how not to fall in a crevasse and die!).

But, except for the occasional bout of irregularity, most healthy people don’t think much about it.

For people fighting cancer or many other serious diseases, regularity can be a constant concern. It’s a big issue after any surgery; you will never be released from the hospital until you can go to the bathroom. Many chemotherapy and other drugs cause constipation. Depending on the cancer, radiation can disrupt regularity. And if cancer spreads to other organs, elimination can become a constant problem.

Diet is a key factor in regularity. It’s important to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber.

And drink water! Sometimes, the importance of water is missing in discussions of diet and regularity. Your body simply cannot move waste through it’s system without adequate water. Drink water!

But exercise is also important in maintaining regularity. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to start walking after surgery. For people in various stages of treatment, exercise offers many benefits. It can improve energy level, relieve pain, improve mood, for example. But it’s also useful in maintaining regularity. A simple walk can stimulate your body and encourage all your body systems, including digestion, to function smoothly. The American Cancer Society, in CA a Cancer Journal for Clinicians, says exercise can help relieve constipation, even for people living with advanced cancer.

With all of the other side effects of cancer treatment, constipation may seem like something relatively minor. But most people going through treatment find it a pretty important issue. It’s just impossible to feel good if you can’t go to the bathroom. And it’s an ongoing issue throughout cancer treatment.

So, this topic may be TMI (too much information) for a lot of folks, but people in cancer treatment know just how important it is.


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