It goes without saying that cancer is a terrible blight on modern life. In all its forms it strikes young and old, male and female the world over. Great strides have been made to combat it but the figures are still harrowing – 8.8 million deaths in 2015. 

But the risk of developing cancer can be greatly reduced by the adoption of some basic health and lifestyle modifications, like exercising more, eat more nutritious foods, sleep, stop smoking etc.

Exercise and Cancer – A Breakthrough New Study

The part exercise has to play has very much come to the fore in recent years. Professor Prue Cormie of the Australian Catholic University led a major study on exercise and cancer and commented, “If the effects of exercise could be encapsulated in a pill, it would be prescribed to every cancer patient worldwide and viewed as a major breakthrough in cancer treatment”.

She added that because of the effects and outcomes of exercise on cancer patients that are now known, “Exercise is the best medicine someone with cancer can take in addition to their standard cancer treatments”.

Dr David Speakman, chief medical offer and the Peter MacCullum Cancer Centre, backed up Professor Cormie and added, “Our attitudes to treating cancer, what it takes to give people their best shot at survival, have to change. All cancer patients will benefit from an exercise prescription”.

Once cancer is detected there are ways to boost the body’s immune system and minimise the effects of the disease and the treatment.

Participating in a regular exercise regime during treatment for cancer could be helpful in numerous ways, such as:

  1. Maintaining and/or improving physical abilities.
  2. Improves balance
  3. Stop muscle wasting
  4. Lower the risk of heart disease
  5. Reduces the risk of Osteoporosis
  6. Improves circulation and lowers the risk of blood clots
  7. Improves independence
  8. Improves self-esteem
  9. Reduces anxiety and depression.
  10. Controls nausea
  11. Lessen fatigue
  12. Controls weight
  13. improve quality of life
  14. Potentially boosting the immune system


What are goals for an exercise program during the recovery phase of cancer treatment?

Firstly the program prescription should be safe and appropriate for the individual, and ideally include activities the individual enjoys doing.

Secondly current activities and limitations, physical and emotional should be taken into account.

Limitations could include:

  • Stage of the cancer
  • Type of cancer
  • Treatment
  • Physical strength levels
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

The aim throughout the process should be to stay as fit as possible, potentially strengthening the immune system and brain as much as possible. If someone has not done any exercise then they should start with low-intensity activities like walking, and build up their fitness gradually.

To safely start and maintain fitness it is advisable to make use of a trained professional like a Biokineticist, Physiotherapist, Clinical Exercise Therapist after you received the all clear from your Doctor.

These university trained individuals will have knowledge about your condition and the appropriate activity plan to prescribe to make sure you improve.

In Part 2 of Exercise and Cancer I will explore this subject further…

Connect here with WatchFit expert Henry van der Walt 


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