Exercising Despite MPN-Related Fatigue

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Topics include: Living Well and Understanding

Many MPN patients experience fatigue and, although it seems counter-intuitive, exercising actually helps to improve energy levels. Dr. Naveen Pemmaraju from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center explains and shares information on how to develop a suitable fitness regimen for MPN patients.

This town meeting was sponsored by Incyte Corporation. It was produced by Patient Power in partnership with the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Jeff Folloder:

Doctor, I’m going to flip this to you for a second, because I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around a concept. If fatigue is pretty much the number one complaint of MPN patients, why are you telling me to go exercise? I don’t have the energy to do that. 

Dr. Pemmaraju: 

Wow, what a profound point. I think the way that I look at this whole spectrum is that it’s a vicious cycle. So if you don’t use it, you lose it. So the fatigue that we think of in our world of the MPNs, I think of it as slightly a different possibly fatigue from someone working a long day and having fatigue. 

This is a physiological disruption of your entire body. I love what you were talking about, Brady, which is we were talking about the blood system, the immune system. Your body is in a war state. It’s called catabolic, breaking down of the body. So let’s take the patient with myelofibrosis, for example, not everyone, but your spleen is getting bigger. Your physical space in your GI tract is lessening. You’re not eating as much. You’re getting full faster. And now, you’re feeling so tired that you may not even want to interact with friends, family. We get that. That’s exactly what you’re talking about. But it’s paradoxical, because this type of a fatigue is a physiological, organic fatigue that’s wrecking your body.

So the exercise comes in that exercise means something different for everyone. There are studies coming out now that walking just for a short period of time but regularly can decrease all sorts of mind and body ailments.

So we’re not talking always about rigorous, go to the gym weights. Exercise just means more activity than what you’re getting in your normal life. But what I would say is start low and go slow. You can start with this regular walk 30 minutes a day. If you have a partner or spouse, significant other, somebody else, that’s an even better way to do it. You can do small measures of exercise that are still working out your body. You don’t have to be running marathons and doing all of that. That’s my answer is that recognize that this fatigue is coming from a different place and that you can still engage in any number of activities to get around it.

So, yes, the advice, as tolerated. Obviously, if you have a heart problem, lung problem, all of these other things, it may require a more multidisciplinary. And then, I think this other advice about doing other things that you can avoid, stopping smoking, what a big, important issue.

A lot of folks have either a tobacco or smoking they can stop, checking the cholesterol. So there are other things you can do. But make no mistake about it. Some form of exercise, if you and your doctor okay it, can go a long way.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on September 27, 2017