While the COVID-19 pandemic has taught the entire world to stay indoors to escape infections, this lesson is not new to cancer patients and survivors. Much before self-quarantine became the norm, cancer patients the world over were told to stay away from crowded places and to avoid eating out.
A compromised immune system and a recovering constitution requires those on cancer treatment to be extra-cautious and extra-vigilant at all times. For most of us, this means that we stay indoors at all times.
While staying indoors might be a necessary precaution, it can also lead to isolation. It is being observed that being confined to small spaces can be harmful to our physical and mental health.
Even though meeting others might still be out of bounds for most of us, just being outdoors, in the sunlight and fresh air can do wonders for our body and mind. This is why many cancer patients are being advised to look for ways to spend time outdoors, away from people, but close to nature.
What can the outdoors do for you?
Only if it is possible for you to venture out without increased human contact, and with all the necessary precautions like social distancing, face masks, hand gloves and sanitisers, should you consider stepping out.
It is also important to judge how safe and hygienic the outdoors accessible to you are. It is better to stay indoors than to subject yourself to polluted air and unsafe surroundings.
However, if you are able to step into a clean park, or even the balcony of your own home, without additional risk of infections, you might want to take that option as often as possible.
Here are some reasons to use the outdoors:
Exposure to mild to moderate sunlight allows the body to absorb vital amounts of vitamin D into the body. Since the body cannot produce vitamin D and is reliant on external sources for it, sunlight is of paramount importance.
Vitamin D helps to strengthen your bones, preventing diseases like osteoporosis. Even 15 minutes of daily sunlight can make a difference to your bone health.
Apart from improving your physical health, sunlight also improves mental health by providing serotonin that reduces the risk of seasonal affective disorders, anxiety and depression.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
Sunlight helps the body produce melatonin, which aids in calming the mind and in falling asleep. Receiving light during the day and darkness during the night regulates your sleep pattern and helps to reduce insomnia.
Even without realising it, we end up getting better physical exercise once we step out. Exercise releases hormones called endorphins which reduce feelings of stress and pain.
Moderate walking, climbing a few stairs and even a few stretches in the park, can improve blood circulation, stamine, appetite and muscle strength.
You may notice that your appetite improves after staying outdoors for a duration of time, thereby improving your nutrition intake.
Remember to keep a bottle of water or juice with you at all times to prevent dehydration. Stop at the first sign of discomfort or tiredness.
You might have heard it said that oxygen is vital in the fight against cancer. Gentle exercise outdoors improves your breathing and allows better intake of oxygen.
If you prefer to sit in the park or on your balcony, consider practising a few deep breathing exercises. These aid your lung functions and also lead to relaxation.
Many cancer patients who have used the outdoors safely to their advantage agree that they look forward to this part of their day. Making it a part of their daily routine ensures that they do not forget to do it, and also helps them adjust better to staying safe outdoors.