Exercise Great For Cancer Survival

Cancer survivors can benefit significantly from moderately vigorous exercise five days a week, and it can even help them stay in remission, a new study indicates.

The study authors say if the benefits of exercise were a new drug it would be hitting the headlines, but as it is many health professionals are not even aware of it and do not recommend it to their patients.

Get On Your Bike

Cycling or very brisk walking or even energetic household chores like heavy cleaning or mowing the lawn  – five times a week for 30 minutes –  and slightly longer for those with bowel cancer – can help cancer patients stay healthy.

Not only does exercise have long term benefits in terms of survival, it also reduces  the side effects of treatment, including swelling, fatigue, depression, osteoporosis, and heart disease, according to the report by  a UK cancer support organisation which analysed 60 studies on the links between exercise and health in cancer patients.

Four Key Findings

  1. Breast cancer patients’ risk of recurrence and of dying from the disease can be reduced by up to 40% by doing 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week.
  2. Bowel cancer patients’ risk of recurrence and dying from the disease can be reduced by up to 50% by doing significant amounts of physical activity; this means about six hours of moderate intensity physical activity per week.
  3. Prostate cancer patients’ risk of dying from the disease can be reduced by up to 30% by doing the recommended 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity.
  4. After treatment, all cancer patients can reduce their risk of side effects from cancer and its treatment, including fatigue, depression, osteoporosis, and heart disease, by doing the recommended levels of physical activity.

Specialists Don’t Know

However, despite strong emerging evidence that being physically active could dramatically improve cancer patients’ recovery and long-term health, a Macmillan online survey of 400 health professionals who deal with cancer patients found that many are not aware of this and most are not talking to their patients about it.

Over half of the primary care doctors, nurses, and oncologists surveyed do not speak to their cancer patients about the benefits of physical activity, or at best they speak to just a few of them.

Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says, “Cancer patients would be shocked if they knew just how much benefit physical activity could have on their recovery and long-term health, in some cases reducing their chances of having to go through the gruelling ordeal of treatment all over again.”

Not Just An ‘Add-On Option’

According to Jane Maher, chief medical officer of Macmillan Cancer Support, “The advice I would previously have given to my patients would have been to ‘take it easy.’

“This has now changed significantly because of the recognition that, if physical exercise were a drug, it would be hitting the headlines. There really needs to be a cultural change so that health professionals see physical activity as an integral part of cancer after-care, not just an optional add-on.”

 

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