Exercise Gives Cancer Patients Better Fitness, Better Recovery and a Better Life

Recently I was contacted by David Haas of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance about ways in which we could work together to speak about the benefits of physical activity for individuals suffering from serious illness. David saw a lot of similarities in our approaches and asked if he could guest post on Run With ms. Here is the first installment of our partnership:

Exercise Gives Cancer Patients Better Fitness, Better Recovery and a Better Life

Macmillan Cancer Support (MCS), a cancer research and advocacy group based in the United Kingdom, released a new report linking exercise and cancer. The latest information sheds new light on the benefits of exercise for cancer patients. Traditionally, doctors prescribed rest and inactivity during and after cancer treatment. According to the new MCS report, the days of bed rest following treatment are gone.

A growing body of evidence shows that regular physical activity lowers the risk for certain types of cancer. Studies also show that physical workouts neutralize the negative side effects of aggressive medical treatments. Additionally, regular exercise cuts the cancer mortality rate and improves survivorship.

Better Physical Fitness

Cancer symptoms and treatments cause numerous physical changes that are hard for some people to deal with. Some side effects are temporary and end when the cancer treatments end. Others are permanent. Late effects may even develop years after the last treatment.

Exercise helps patients cope with these side effects and recover from some of the changes. It reduces the tiredness, nausea, stress and anxiety associated with the disease. Exercise strengthens the heart, lungs, bones and muscles. It also reduces the risk of developing blood clots and muscle atrophy.

Better Quality of Life

The emotional benefits of exercise may be more important than the physical ones. Regular workouts help cancer patients manage the common problems of depression and low mood. Physical activities release chemicals called endorphins. These “feel good” substances lift the spirit and encourage a positive outlook.

Exercising with other people also improves life for cancer patients. Joining a fitness class or walking group, or just playing games with family and friends, adds an element of fun. Group activities often provide just the encouragement and motivation needed to stick with an exercise plan.

Better Recovery

Some patients develop other health problems as the result of their cancer or treatment. High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease are common related problems. Regular exercise may lower the risk of developing these conditions.

Exercise also discourages the development of cancer. Getting adequate exercise and maintaining a healthy weight may lessen the risk of cancer progression or recurrence. Patients may wonder how much exercise is enough to reap the real benefits. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise each week. The best workouts combine flexibility, aerobic and strength-training activities.

Patients with advanced cancers, such as those in mesothelioma treatment, cannot realistically meet this exercise guideline. However, most other cancer patients can and should strive for this goal. According to recent studies, people fighting breast and prostate cancers have lowered their risk for recurrence by exercising to ACSM guidelines.

Thank you David for this informative article. I would add that even people who feel they can’t realistically keep up with an exercise routine can still benefit form physical activities. For instance stretching while lying down or even getting your body moving while in a supine or prone position.