Exercise Safety and Efficacy Necessary to Gain Benefits During Cancer Treatment
Physical fitness plays a large role in health and the prevention of many chronic diseases, including common forms of cancer, but can it help those already diagnosed with cancer? The leading research organizations think so, and current guidelines instruct patients to avoid physical inactivity and strive for 120-minutes of moderate-intensity aerobics each week. This somewhat vague prescription for exercise during cancer treatment is not made wholesale, and there are several important caveats. However, the results of numerous studies have been clear. Exercise provides benefits for all patients.
Mitigating Symptoms of Cancer and Side Effects of Treatment
A 2001 experiment followed breast cancer participants as they participated in an outpatient-walking program during treatment with radiation and chemotherapy. A total of 52 participants were assigned to either a control group receiving usual care from the clinic or the exercise intervention. While researchers monitored the amount of exercise, there was no further intervention with fitness experts or time regulations. Researchers discovered that women who walked a minimum of 90 minutes weekly over three days each week gained significant benefits.
There were no injuries reported, and benefits included reduced experience of fatigue and improved quality of life. Since 2001, similar studies have expanded these findings to show that patients with other forms of cancer, even those at advanced stages, can gain similar benefits. Side effects of treatment, such as nausea, emotional disturbance, insomnia, loss of appetite, loss of function, and weight changes, have been mitigated successfully in both self-directed exercise programs and in those overseen by fitness experts. Further, epidemiological research has uncovered a strong link between greater amounts of exercise and lowered risk of recurrence.
Safety of Exercise Programs
Since an individual’s prognosis and fitness level can differ dramatically from those of other patients with the same cancer at the same stage of development, there is no one exercise program that is suitable for all stage two breast cancer patients, and so on. Rather, it is necessary for patients to find a starting place based on their individual needs.
Many patients, for instance, lack any formal knowledge and history of exercise. This can spell trouble, because exercise injuries are more common in this group. Fitness experts are needed to ensure patient safety and design routines that promote physical health. This is especially true for patients with mesothelioma, bone cancers, and even those accepting palliative care. Exercise is a low-cost and safe intervention when carried out appropriately, and no patient should be deprived of the benefits without good reason.
Ensuring Exercise Efficacy
Part of the impetus for researchers to study the effects of exercise on cancer treatment came from earlier studies, which found that physical inactivity is common among cancer survivors. Exercise can be painful for those lacking a history of fitness, and it is easy to become discouraged and stop. Since the key to unlocking benefits is regularity, it is important to choose exercises that are both enjoyable and at the proper intensity to minimize discomfort and maximize benefits.