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Oct 19, 2021
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Exercise for cancer: what you need to know

Exercise Effects on Cancer

During cancer treatment, the physical activity of patients is often affected, regardless of the type and stage of the tumor. The reason for this is the influence of the treatment itself, age, habit of a sedentary lifestyle, forced immobility. Scientists view exercise as an important means of improving the outcome of cancer.

In 2018, experts from the American College of Sports Medicine released a guideline recommending that everyone who has been diagnosed with cancer be physically active as much as possible.

A review of 100 studies found that patients who remain physically active after a cancer problem are found to have an easier onset of the disease, have fewer relapses, and have lower mortality rates than those who do not exercise. These effects are associated with the action of various biologically active substances that are produced during exercise. These include myokines, which are secreted by muscles.

It is known that one in ten patients treated for cancer will die of cardiovascular disease. Research shows exercise can reduce this risk as well.

Below is a complete list of the potential benefits of physical activity for cancer.

  • Helps the body and brain work better.
  • Relieves fatigue.
  • Relieves anxiety and depression.
  • Improves sleep.
  • Helps cope with daily routines.
  • Increases muscle strength, strengthens bones, and maintains mobility.
  • Strengthens the immune system.
  • Improves appetite.
  • Helps cope with lymphatic edema.
  • Helps maintain a healthy weight.
  • For some cancers, the risk of recurrence is reduced.
  • Improves the quality of life.
  • Eases the side effects of treatment.

Source – American Society of Oncology

With breast cancer, the most physically active people have a 42% lower risk of death compared to the least active. Exercise for colon cancer reduces the risk of death by 38%, and for prostate cancer by 45%.

What exercises are needed

Various exercises are used in the comprehensive fight against cancer. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) lists the following types:

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise is known to many as cardio workouts. They speed up the heart rate, make it work better and the lungs. These exercises can help prevent feelings of fatigue, but this is far from their only effect.

Typical aerobic exercise is walking, jogging, dancing, cycling. American Association of Clinical Oncology (DISGUST) suggests investing in the standards for these exercises that the World Health Organization suggests: 150 minutes of light to moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week. That is, they should take on average only 22 minutes or 15 minutes per day, respectively.

Strength exercises

They are especially important for muscle loss that occurs when immobilized or under the influence of treatment. Strength exercises – using dumbbells, resistance bands, exercise equipment or body weight – help a person stay independent, relieve fatigue, strengthen bones, and improve balance. It is advisable to devote them two days a week.

Balance Exercises

Imbalance can be a side effect of cancer treatments. Exercises to maintain it will help you stay mobile and do your daily routine safely, and is essential to prevent falls.

Breathing and stretching

Shortness of breath and shortness of breath often accompany cancer. Breathing exercises can help normalize lung function, improve endurance, help relieve stress and relieve anxiety.

Stretching increases flexibility. When performing such exercises, blood flow is increased, which contributes to the recovery of the body. They are especially indicated for people with reduced mobility.

You can find out more about the effects of the exercises in the table.

Aerobic exercise

Strength exercises

Balance Exercises

Stretching and relaxation

Bone disorders

NS

Imbalance in muscle and adipose tissue

NS

NS

Depletion

NS

NS

Peripheral neuropathy

NS

NS

Lymphatic edema

NS

Pain

NS

Insomnia

NS

NS

Fatigue

NS

NS

NS

Depression, anxiety

NS

Decreased quality of life

NS

NS

NS

A source

Exercise safety

Exercise is not only beneficial but also safe for cancer patients, many studies have confirmed. However, to be sure of their safety, you need to follow simple rules.

  • Progress in exercise should be slow, even if you were physically active before starting cancer treatment. This will help prevent damage.
  • Exercise in a safe environment. Cancer treatments can weaken the immune system, so it is best not to exercise in crowded halls.
  • Listen to your body’s reactions. If there is not enough energy, adjust the load.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • The diet should be nutritious. It is better to consult a specialist about it.
  • See your doctor regularly to determine if your current training regimen is right for you.


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