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Studies show that there is a definite link between cancer and physical activity. Regular exercise reduces your personal risk of cancer but if you don’t get enough sleep, you could cancel out the positive effects of your workouts.
Sleep Benefits Confirmed
According to the American Association for Cancer Research, sleep deficiency may counteract the immune, hormonal, and metabolic benefits received when regular exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle or cancer treatment plan.
During the study, active women ages 65 and younger lost the benefits of their active lifestyle if they got less than seven hours of sleep every night. Their cancer risk was actually higher than those women who were exercising and getting enough sleep but still less than those who exercised little.
Lack of sleep has a big impact on your health in general. Not getting enough quality sleep can cause an imbalance in two of the hormones that affect your cancer risk.
- Cortisol is the body’s “stress hormone” and is released during times of anxiety. People in the United States are chronically sleep-deprived. Physical and mental exhaustion causes your body to produce more cortisol. This could play into the development and progression of cancer cells.
- Melatonin is produced during sleep. It has powerful antioxidant properties that help prevent damage to cells that may eventually become cancerous. When you don’t sleep enough, your body cuts back on your melatonin production – leaving you at risk for cancer and other serious conditions.
Cancer patients who find a way to effectively manage their stress levels and implement an exercise routine tend to do better during their treatment and recovery than those who don’t. Lack of sleep, overwhelming stress, lack of exercise, and depression affect your immune system in ways that could impede your cancer fight.
6 Steps for Achieving the Best Sleep Benefits Possible
#1: Sleep when your body tells you.
… And as much as your body needs. This is crucial during cancer treatments that sap much of your energy.
#2: Exercise once a day for 30 minutes.
Low-impact exercise counts so take a walk, swim a few laps, or join a class to get those workouts in. There are even chair exercises if you’re struggling with balance and coordination. One of my personal favorites is rebounding (jumping on a mini-trampoline) to get my heart rate up and the lymphatic system moving.
#3: Avoid caffeine, alcohol, carbs, and sweets for 8 hours before bedtime.
Most of these are easy to avoid if you are practicing a ketogenic diet. If you are not eating a keto diet, be sure to avoid these before bed as they affect our ability to experience deep sleep. A 2013 Scientific Research study concluded that “energy drinks, other caffeinated beverages and alcoholic beverages are risk factors of poor sleep quality.”
#4: Keep your room cool, quiet, and dark for sleep.
Your melatonin levels increase at night so keeping the room dark and cold encourage prolonged, natural melatonin production. A 2010 study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that individuals exposed to room light “during the usual hours of sleep suppressed melatonin by greater than 50% in most (85%) trials.”
#5: Get on a regular sleep schedule.
Try to get on a schedule where you sleep and wake at the same time every day to get your body accustomed to your new routine.
#6: Meditate and pray before you go to sleep to calm your heart and mind.
If your normal sleep routine has been disrupted due to stress, pain, or treatments, it is important to spend time in prayer and meditation to calm your heart and mind, facilitating peaceful sleep, wholeness, and healing. Your body desperately needs the benefits of sleep to help you fight and prevent cancer.
The Importance of Exercise
While exercise can help prevent cancer, it becomes particularly important during and after treatment. Studies show that exercise and weight control is helpful in preventing the return of cancer (primarily colon cancer and breast cancer). Being overweight greatly increases the chances of cancer recurring or having a new cancer develop.
For those with cancer, exercise helps increase energy levels, stabilize moods, and boost overall confidence. If it’s not a regular part of your routine, start as soon as possible following diagnosis and treatments!
Once a patient has received a diagnosis, they tend to slow down and may become depressed. Naturally, there is a period of adjustment as you cope with initial stress and begin your cancer fight. However, “taking it easy” is not a good long-term solution.
Make a plan to take control of your health and include exercise! Be as active as you can within your physical limitations. Alternate between stretching, aerobic, and strength training to achieve a balanced workout. Better yet – talk to your doctor to define a plan that works best for you.
- Stretching and flexibility exercises can be done by anyone to maintain mobility.
- Aerobic exercise gets your heart rate up and your blood pumping.
- Resistance or weight training are designed to strengthen and build muscle. During cancer treatment, people lose muscle tone and gain fat.
Additionally, there are plenty of exercises you can do in or around your home. During the day, make time to stretch or take a short walk. Your energy levels and strength will gradually improve with consistent exercise.
Exercise and Sleep – The Dynamic Duo
One of the biggest benefits of exercise is its effect on sleep. Exercise works your body, the muscles, the joints, lungs, and heart. The circadian rhythms (your internal sleep cycle) in your body are enhanced by exercise. This makes you more active during the day and promotes quality sleep at night.
Which is more crucial to preventing, fighting, and beating cancer? Both!
Scientists, doctors, and many cancer organizations agree that the right balance of exercise and sleep is important. They need to be part of your overall cancer-fighting plan. Let exercise and sleep be your one-two punch in the fight against cancer!
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