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Benefits of Exercise After Cancer

Until recently, recovering cancer patients frequently received advice to avoid exercise. I just came across this article in the New York Times giving a different recommendation.  In the article, Anahad O’Connor states:

“Many people who have had cancer may be inclined to rest and take it easy after treatment, but a new report by a leading British cancer charity is strongly urging some patients to increase, not reduce, their levels of physical activity.”

The report reviewed the results of 60 studies and concluded that patients should view light exercise as part of the cancer treatment. They claimed that two and a half hours of exercise a week can lower a breast cancer patient’s risk of dying or cancer recurrence by 40 percent, and could reduce a prostate cancer patient’s risk of dying from the disease by about 30 percent.  These are certainly encouraging figures.

The American College of Sports Medicine last year of developed a set of guidelines on physical activity for cancer patients who are undergoing or have recently completed treatment. They  recommended exercises for patients based on their specific cancer and the side effects of their treatment, such as strength-building routines for patients who have lost muscle mass and shoulder-stabilizing exercises in breast cancer survivors who have had operations that debilitate the joints in their shoulders.  Both the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Cancer Society recognize that some patients may be too sick to exercise, and they recommend that patients should coordinate their exercise program with their oncologist.

The good news for cancer patients is that, if they can handle it, light or moderate exercise can help reduce some side effects of treatment. Arm extensions and other range-of-motion exercises, for example, can help relieve lymphedema, a painful swelling of the arm following breast cancer surgery. It can also combat some of the exhaustion stemming from chemotherapy and, for those who gain weight during treatment, help them to slim down again and recover mobility.

“The evidence review shows that physical exercise does not increase fatigue during treatment, and can in fact boost energy after treatment,” the report stated.

The American College of Sports Medicine’s website explains how patients can find a certified cancer exercise trainer in their area.   If you or a loved one needs a simple exercise regime that can be used at home without demanding too much time, you may wish to investigate the 7 minute workout program.