How cancer patients are benefitting from indoor rowing

We spoke with Chelsea Mears-Graham, lifestyle Advisor and Advanced PT at Active Tameside, who is using the power of indoor rowing to help cancer patients with exercise and rehabilitation

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Chelsea explained: “We are told as exercise referral instructors to use exercises appropriate for the patients’ needs and in our training we are given exercise frameworks to follow for specific medical conditions. However, these often only recommend using treadmills or static bikes and specify that other cardiovascular gym equipment can be too advanced for patient’s medical conditions.

In my experience, I have found that patients don’t necessarily enjoy the treadmills or bikes and can quickly become bored on these pieces of equipment, which then can result in less adherence to physical activity. A lot of patients feel the need to enjoy themselves whilst exercising and for people that have no previous gym experience, the gym can often be boring or even intimidating. My aim is to change their behaviour on this and educate them about exercise and physical activity.

I therefore began to try some of my patients whose mobility and conditions allowed them on the rowing machines. The feedback I received from the patients was that they found this exercise more enjoyable and more of a benefit.

Patients with musculoskeletal conditions (who suffer with joint and muscle pain) saw the best benefits, in terms of reducing pain and joint stiffness and improving joint function and strength. Even patients with respiratory conditions such as Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) found that the action of the exercise helped with controlling their breathing techniques, thus reducing their breathlessness whilst exercising and improving lung capacity.”

Mears-Graham also acknowledges the need to adapt training for different individuals: “Obviously using the rowing machine in a patient’s programme may not be suitable for certain conditions or patients, so it’s up to me to use my experience and knowledge to know when this is appropriate for the patient’s needs. Before I prescribe the exercise plan with the rowing machine, I will assess the patient’s ability to use the machine. Once I feel this is safe I will then go through correct technique to prevent injury and the framework of intensity and duration.”

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