Get Moving to a Healthier You

Spring 2016, Living Well Magazine

In times of illness, including periods of treatment for cancer, many people have a tendency to avoid physical activity, however research shows that exercise, or your preferred form of physical activity, can be an important supportive means, alongside conventional treatment, to improve cancer prognosis.

The research into how exercise can boost your chances of cancer survival, has to date been focused on breast cancer and colon cancer participants, showing improved survival rates and consistent reduction in all-cause mortality.

On reviewing 27 observational studies, and more than 45 published articles, researchers from the National Cancer Institute established that exercise is extremely beneficial on a number of fronts, and that physical activity is associated with reduced all-cause, breast cancer–specific, and colon cancer–specific mortality.

This is valuable information for people living with cancer, who are often seeking information about how lifestyle factors, such as physical activity, can support or impede their treatment program.

Exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle in the prevention of cancer; however this research points specifically to the importance of physical activity, and weight management, following cancer treatment…

In the breast cancer specific studies, women who engaged in regular exercise after completing breast cancer treatment were noted to live longer and experience less cancer recurrence.  Studies further noted that higher levels of physical activity are associated with a longer survival.

Exercise is beneficial in that it directly influences the circulating levels of insulin in the body. This in turn impacts on the insulin-related pathways, on inflammation and also on the immune system. These are important biomarkers in the system that relate to the body’s capacity to renew or repair cells and resist disease.  It also has the added wellbeing benefits of improving mood and boosting self-confidence, and can reduce fatigue, one of the most common after-effects of cancer treatments.

While slowing down during treatment is understandable, not being sedentary after treatment can be considered an important component of long-term recovery and survival. Stretching, light aerobic exercise and strength resistance training are all useful, and seeking professional guidance to develop a regular exercise plan is recommended.

One of the most effective forms of physical exercise for people who have received cancer treatment is walking – a cost-effective, low impact form of exercise that is accessible to everyone, all the time.

References:

Ballard-Barbash R, Friedenreich CM, Courneya KS, Siddiqi SM, McTiernan A, Alfano CM. Physical Activity, Biomarkers, and Disease Outcomes in Cancer Survivors: A Systematic Review. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012 June 6; 104(11): 815–840. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djs207 http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/104/11/815.abstract