exOrcise Cancer with exErcise
Doctors have found something that can regulate gene transcription throughout your body, help prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and 12 kinds of cancer, gallstones, diverticulitis, improve your strength and balance, improve blood lipid profile, increase bone strength, grow new capillaries in your heart, muscle and brain, improve blood flow and the delivery of oxygen and nutrient, increase attention span, relieves symptoms of arthritis, regulate your appetite, and improve your immune system. You’ll even feel better and younger. The only problem is that doctors have not create a pill that can fill a prescription for the benefits of exercise.
The benefits of exercise for the general population are well publicized. There’s abundant evidence that exercise and optimal nutrition can help prevent people from getting cancer.
But what if you’re already a cancer patient? Enduring cancer diagnosis and surviving treatment are major accomplishments. Most, if not all survivors find a new priority in life: to keeping cancer from returning. And recent information from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggest that higher levels of physical activity are associated with a reduced risk for cancer recurring, and a longer survival after a cancer diagnosis.
Until recently, it was common for physicians to advise their cancer patients to avoid exercise. However, there is an increasing amount of evidence that exercise is beneficial during and after cancer treatment. What experts suspected has now been proven. As a cancer survivor, exercising could help you live a longer life, free from cancer. Exercise has many of the same benefits for cancer survivors as it does for other adults such as an increased level of fitness, increased muscle strength, leaner body mass, and less weight gain, all factors that improve overall health.
When should you start exercising after cancer diagnosis and treatment? As soon as possible. Studies show that after a cancer diagnosis, people slow down. Stress, depression, and feeling sick or fatigued from cancer or its treatment all tend to make people less active. If you’ve decreased your activity level since your cancer diagnosis, now is the time to pick it back up. Ideally, cancer survivors should do aerobic exercises and weight training. Both are critical to the overall health and well-being of cancer survivors.
Women with breast cancer who exercised during treatment felt like they had more energy and did not gain as much weight as patients who did not. Swimming, movement and dance, and other programs can offer a physical and emotional boost. Exercise for breast cancer survivors usually includes physical therapy to improve strength and range of motion in the arms, and moderate aerobic exercise (like walking) for about 30 minutes, three or more times a week. The greatest benefit occurred in women who performed the equivalent of walking 3 to 5 hours per week at an average pace. In fact, any amount of weekly exercise increased a patient’s odds of surviving breast cancer. This benefit also remained constant regardless of whether women were diagnosed early on or after their cancer had spread. Physical activity after a breast cancer diagnosis may reduce the risk of death from this disease. Cancer patients and survivors should strive to get the same 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise that is recommended for the general public. Though the evidence indicates that most types of physical activity, from swimming to yoga to strength training, are beneficial for cancer patients, clinicians should tailor exercise recommendations to individual patients, taking into account their general fitness level, specific diagnosis and factors about their disease that might influence exercise safety. Cancer patients with weakened ability to fight infection, for instance, may be advised to avoid exercise in public gyms.
From the Science Daily:
New Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Patients:
ScienceDaily (June 4, 2010) — Cancer patients who’ve been told to rest and avoid exercise can — and should — find ways to be physically active both during and after treatment, according to new national guidelines.
Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and a member of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, will present these guidelines at an educational session at the 2010 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, aimed at making cancer exercise rehabilitation programs as common as those offered to people who have had heart attacks or undergone cardiac surgery. (“Exercise Testing and Prescription for Cancer Survivors: Guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine.”)
Schmitz, whose previous research reversed decades of cautionary exercise advice given to breast cancer patients with the painful arm-swelling condition lymphedema, led a 13-member American College of Sports Medicine expert panel that developed the new recommendations after reviewing and evaluating literature on the safety and efficacy of exercise training during and after cancer therapy.
“We have to get doctors past the ideas that exercise is harmful to their cancer patients. There is a still a prevailing attitude out there that patients shouldn’t push themselves during treatment, but our message — avoid inactivity — is essential,” Schmitz says. “We now have a compelling body of high quality evidence that exercise during and after treatment is safe and beneficial for these patients, even those undergoing complex procedures such as stem cell transplants. If physicians want to avoid doing harm, they need to incorporate these guidelines into their clinical practice in a systematic way.”
Cancer patients and survivors should strive to get the same 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise that is recommended for the general public, the panel says.
Schmitz also feels strongly that practicing oncologists need to be informed about the new guidelines and their importance, and says that patients can play a role in changing attitudes and clinical practice. Her hope is that patients will read the recommendations and discuss them with their doctors, creating the demand for change that will drive more cancer centers and oncology practices to create and offer cancer exercise rehabilitation services.