The research of Dr. Kathryn Schmitz, which had already research reversed decades of cautionary exercise advice given to breast cancer patients with lymphedema, led an expert panel to developed the new recommendations.
According to Eurekalert:
"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".
As little as a decade ago, it was common for physicians to advise their heart attack patients to avoid exercise for fear that they could stress out their heart and trigger a second attack.
Now, it's common knowledge that exercise is a phenomenal way to strengthen your heart after a heart attack as well as lessen your risk of further problems, and regular exercise is routinely recommended to heart patients.
For cancer patients, this trend is still in the beginning stages, with many practitioners advising their patients to avoid exercise during and after cancer treatment. But increasing evidence is showing that this outdated advice is actually causing cancer patients harm, as regular exercise can lead to a number of health improvements for cancer patients, including:
- Better aerobic fitness
- Increased muscular strength
- Improved quality of life
- Less fatigue
Exercise Improves Cancer Survival
I've written a lot about how exercise can help to reduce your risk of cancer in the first place, but does it do any good if you're already fighting cancer? Yes … a lot.
Harvard Medical School researchers found patients who exercise moderately -- 3-5 hours a week -- reduce their odds of dying from breast cancer by about half as compared to sedentary women. 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.
Patients receiving the biggest boost from exercise were those most sensitive to estrogen, the most common form of breast cancer. (Previous research has shown exercise lowers estrogen levels, which can fuel the growth of breast cancer cells.)
Think about it. If just three to five hours of walking per week can so drastically improve your chances of surviving a hormone-responsive breast cancer tumor, imagine what a few more hours a week of exercise could do for you.
If you're male, be aware that athletes have lower levels of circulating testosterone than non-athletes, and similar to the association between estrogen levels and breast cancer in women, testosterone is known to influence the development of prostate cancer in men.
Physical activity can reduce your risk and boost your chances of recovery if you have cancer.
Exercise is a Potent Cancer Fighter
Cancer thrives on sugar, but regular exercise reduces your insulin levels, which creates a low sugar environment that discourages the growth and spread of cancer cells. Controlling your insulin levels is one of the most powerful steps you can take to reduce your cancer risk and help keep it from returning.
Physically active adults experience about half the incidence of colon cancer as their sedentary counterparts. Exercise has a beneficial influence on insulin, prostaglandins and bile acids, all of which are thought to encourage the growth and spread of cancer cells in your colon. Exercise also improves bowel transit time, which means your body's waste is spending less time in contact with the mucosal lining of your colon.
Exercise also improves the circulation of immune cells in your blood. The job of these cells is to neutralize pathogens throughout your body.
The better these cells circulate, the more efficient your immune system is at locating and defending against viruses and diseases, including cancer, trying to attack your body.
It's also been suggested that apoptosis (programmed cell death) is triggered by exercise, causing cancer cells to die. So you can see why a regular exercise program is important not only during any treatment you're receiving but also afterward as well.
Exercise Tips for Cancer Patients
I would also strongly recommend that you read the lead article in today's newsletter that reviews some of the newest insights on how to optimize your exercise program and actually reduce your exercise time and improve your benefits.
You will need to tailor your exercise routine to your individual scenario, taking into account your stamina and current health. Often, you will be able to take part in a regular exercise program -- one that involves a variety of exercises like strength training, core-building, stretching, aerobic and anaerobic -- with very little changes necessary.
However, you may find that you need to exercise at a lower intensity or for shorter durations at times. Always listen to your body and if you feel you need a break, take time to rest. Even exercising for a few minutes a day is better than not exercising at all, and you'll likely find that your stamina increases and you're able to complete more challenging workouts with each passing day.
In the event you are suffering from a very weakened immune system, you may want to exercise in your home instead of visiting a public gym. But remember that exercise will ultimately help to boost your immune system, so it's very important to continue with your program.