Cancer Survivors Unaware of Benefits of Exercise

We all know that exercise is good for us, don’t we?  We’ve been told about how exercise helps to strengthen us, burn off those calories and give us a good dose of those ‘feel-good’ endorphins.  All good common sense.

But when you’ve been seriously ill with cancer, exercise may not be upper most in your thoughts.  Grueling rounds of chemotherapy and surgery take their toll not just physically but also mentally.

A leading UK cancer charity has just released some data that should make us take a new look at how exercise can help cancer patients improve their chances of recovery.

Macmillan Cancer Support say that “Inactivity risks the long term health of 1.6 million [UK] cancer survivors.”  They are concerned that Doctors and Health Professionals are not informing cancer patients of the benefits of exercise.  Macmillan’s ‘Move More’ report is a culmination of over 60 comprehensive evidence reviews and a survey of 400 health professionals.

Traditionally, cancer patients have been encouraged to rest and ‘take it easy’ after their cancer treatment.  Whilst adequate rest is necessary to aid recovery so is regular exercise.

3bexercise Jane Mayer, Chief Medical Officer of Macmillan Cancer Support and leading clinical oncologist said, “The advice that I would have previously given to one of 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.”

Four key findings in the Macmillan 'Move More' report are:

  • Breast cancer patients’ risk of recurrence and of dying from the disease can be reduced by up to 40% by doing recommended levels of physical activity
  • Bowel cancer patients’ risk of recurrence and of dying from the disease can be reduced by around 50% by doing significant amounts of physical activity
  • Prostate cancer patients’ risk of dying from the disease can be reduced by up to 30% by doing recommended levels of physical activity
  • After treatment all cancer patients can reduce their risk of getting side effects of cancer and its treatment by doing recommended levels of physical activity.  These include fatigue, depression, osteoporosis and heart disease. 

In the report, the American College of Sports Medicine also recommends that cancer survivors should avoid inactivity and that exercise is safe during and after most types of cancer treatment.

"Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer I didn't really do much exercise" said Jane, 57, who took part in 'prescribed' exercise courses.  She said that following her cancer treatment, "I felt pretty down and exhausted after my treatment – it really knocked it out of me."  However, after getting involved with a 12 week gym program and regular meetings with a specially trained fitness instructor she was amazed by her progress.  "They suggested I go along to a dragon boat racing group for women who've had breast cancer.  I loved it so much, I'm still taking part!  I feel like a completely different person.  I'm much more confident, am much less tired and feel so much better.  Who could have imagined me being so full of life after everything I've been through?!"

What have been your experiences during and after your cancer treatment?  If you've had a similarly energising experience, we'd love to hear from you!  Please join our Facebook page


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