6 fitness questions, answered – MD Anderson Cancer Center

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October 19, 2022
BY Heather Alexander Dahl
Some people make exercise look so easy. They’re at the gym several times a week, posting running times from their fitness app. It’s like they know something the rest of us don’t.
So, what do they know that the rest of us don’t? We talked to MD Anderson fitness specialist Carlos Duncan and got his take on common fitness questions.
1. What is the secret to staying motivated?
Motivation comes and goes. Planning and discipline are key to attaining any goal you want to accomplish.
Find fitness activities you enjoy so working out doesn’t feel like a chore. Get an accountability partner who shares similar goals. If you are someone who struggles with time management, put exercise on your calendar. If you start to lose motivation, try something new to give you a boost.
2. Which is better for losing weight: diet or exercise?
Controlling what you eat will make a greater impact on weight loss. Your energy intake has to be less than your energy expenditure. But it will take a combination of both diet and exercise to keep the weight off. Exercise will help you gain strength and stamina while sculpting the body.
Without exercise, you can lose weight, but you also lose muscle, strength and endurance in the process.
3. How long does it take to see results?
This can vary depending on many factors including nutritional habits, frequency of exercise, and intensity and duration of workouts. On average, most people will see noticeable physical changes after 6 to 8 weeks of consistent exercise.
But don’t focus on aesthetics only, especially if you are undergoing cancer treatment. Listen to your body and notice the other benefits of exercise — increased energy, stamina, and strength, which may start to appear in as little as two to four weeks.  
4. Can I get the same results if I don’t have exercise equipment?
You don’t need a lot of equipment for an effective workout. Many simple household items can easily be used to simulate common gym equipment. An example is water bottles for weights or stairs for step-ups. Additionally, there are many exercises you can perform that require only your body weight as resistance – for example, lunges or squats into a chair.
5. Do I need to exercise every day to realize health benefits?
Physical activity needs vary depending on the person and their specific fitness goals. MD Anderson recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week, plus, strength training exercises two times a week. Cancer patients may want to stick to moderate exercise like walking or swimming.
If these numbers seem like a lot, remember that any amount of exercise is beneficial, even 5 or 10 minutes a couple of times a day. Do whatever you can handle on that particular day.
6. What is your exercise motto?
I always tell people, ‘It’s progress, not perfection.’ It’s not going to be perfect. Things come up, you get sick, you have to pick up the kids from school, and you can’t always stick to your plan. But you’re probably doing more than you were in the past, and that’s a win.
Also, don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, focus on how far you’ve come from where you started. Remember that your journey is yours and how you get there will be different from anyone else’s. Those people you see on social media or in magazines make going to the gym like a job. They might be working out for 2 or 3 hours at a time, which is impossible for most people.
Focus on how you feel and do what you can do at that moment. Try to eat healthily and watch your portions. It’s all based on your lifestyle.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
Focus on how you feel, and do what you can do at that moment.
Carlos Duncan
Sr. Wellness Coordinator
Our patients depend on blood and platelet donations.

© 2022 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

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