This new report indicates that patients being told to rest should be obsolete and physicians should encourage exercise for cancer patients.
The new report has noted that around 1.6 million survivors could be at risk for serious ill health and in some instances a recurrence of cancer due to having an inactive lifestyle.
The charity had reviewed over 60 studies and discovered that having an active lifestyle during treatment does not result in worse fatigue but did provide positive results on mood and well-being. The benefits still continue once treatment has ended by reducing the impact of side effects such as anxiety, depression, impaired mobility, poor bone health and heart disease.
The report findings also suggested breast cancer survivors could decrease recurrence or death from the disease as high as 40% if they exercise on a regular basis.
The charity also determined that up to 56% of general practitioners, nurses, oncologists and cancer nurses do not even mention the benefits of exercise to their patients with cancer.
Chief Executive Ciaran Devane of Macmillan Cancer Support related to the media not only does the report demonstrate how vital physical activity is in cancer recovery but a majority of patients would be “shocked” if they were aware of how much physical activity could aid their recovery and long term health. Along with the fact that in some cases could even decrease the risk of having to undergo repeat treatment.
Chief Medical Officer of the charity Jane Maher has been quoted by the Daily Mail stating “If physical exercise was a drug, it would be hitting the headlines.” She further comments that the exercise does not have to be strenuous, gardening and walking all count.
Some key points that are in the study include:
Doing recommended levels of physical activity can cut the risk of recurrence and dying from breast cancer by up to 40% and from prostate cancer by up to 30%.
Following recommended levels of exercise after cancer treatment can cut the risk of side effects, such as depression, fatigue, osteoporosis and heart disease.
Head information nurse, Martin Ledwick with Cancer Research UK, cautions that exercise associated with improved survival is not yet conclusive. However, he does state that anything which can decrease treatment side effects and improve well being for cancer patients must be a good thing.
In 2019, the American College of Sports Medicine comprised a 13 person panel for exercise recommendations based on numerous published studies that examined the safety and effectiveness of exercise during and after cancer treatment. The panel did focus on studies about exercise for those cancer patients with breast, prostate, colon, hematological and gynecologic cancers. Research had shown regular exercise does improve the quality of life for many cancer patients by providing them with more energy and making it less strenuous of going through treatments such as chemotherapy.
Even the general rule of 150 minutes a week of moderate to intense activity for all persons including those with cancer is not one exercise fits all. The panel did remark that exercises like yoga and swimming are great for cancer patients, exercise routines should be adapted to fitness levels, diagnosis and safety requirements. For example, someone with a compromised immune system may not be better off exercising in a public gym.
The panel in closing had noted that there is compelling high-quality evidence that exercising during and after treatment is safe. That includes exercises for those patients undergoing complex procedures such as stem cell transplants. They further note that if practitioners desire to avoid causing harm they need to incorporate those guidelines into their clinical practice in a systematic way.