Article contributed by Cancer Education Center staff member Lonnie Fynskov, R.N.
“Now why did I go in this room?” Probably we have all had those moments where our focus changes quickly and we cannot remember our reason for going to a specific location. Usually that is a signal we are attempting too many things at one time. However, for some people it may seem to be a constant way of life while going through cancer treatment. This frustrating situation is commonly referred to as "chemo brain" or "brain fog" and it refers to the mental cloudiness that is frequently experienced before, during or after treatment for cancer.
There are numerous tips that can help compensate for this mental fog. Making a to do list, minimizing distractions, staying well rested are all tried and true ways to keep our brain from being over-stimulated but is there anything to prevent it? That is a challenging question because brain fog or chemo brain may have many different causes.
What if there was an activity that is helpful for maintaining your brain function regardless of the cause? How do you feel when you learn that activity is exercise? For some of us, exercise was not the answer we were hoping to hear. However, the idea of protecting our brain function may just be the motivation that will get some of us moving.
In 2013, the American Psychological Association, published the findings of a study that was done with adults ranging in age from 19 to 93. They found that as little as one 15 minute episode of exercise made a positive impact on the participants’ mood and reaction time related to working memory or brain function. This study was done with healthy participants but would it provide the same outcome with people currently experiencing or at risk for chemo brain? Even though that was not the focus on their study, perhaps it is time to be your own detective. After all this is an antidote that is usually free from side effects, free of charge and available to everyone. It seems like there is not much to lose and possibly a significant amount to gain. What has been your post-exercise experience?