“If we could turn the benefits of exercise into a pill it would be demanded by patients, prescribed by every cancer specialist and subsidised by government. It would be seen as a major breakthrough in cancer treatment.” Dr Prue Cormie
Exercise helps with cancer
The floodgates have opened. Research everywhere is proving that physical activity is vital in the treatment and recovery of cancer – although it’s not always easy, is it?
In this article we will walk through four ways exercise can help your cancer treatment to motivate and empower you on your journey to recovery.
1. Reduce cancer-related fatigue
Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is different from that of everyday life and is often described as feeling weak, listless, drained or “washed-out”. It affects up to 7 in 10 people with cancer and can be one of the most debilitating effects of the disease.
Though it may seem strange, exercise can actually help reduce fatigue and build up your stamina to continue doing the things you love. Resting, on the other hand, can make fatigue worse in the long run.
Breast cancer survivor Holly Bertone encourages activity in her article ‘Yes, You Can! Tips for Exercising with Breast Cancer’:
“Even during my worst days, when I was couch-bound, I still made an effort to do something,” she says. “I would do a few leg lifts or slow air punches with my arms while lying on the couch. It helped me mentally more than anything. If you’re bedridden or couch-bound, do some very light movements to keep the blood flowing and lift your spirits.”
Thus exercise helps cancer through reducing cancer-related fatigue.
2. Reduce cancer growth
In a 2016 research study, exercise was shown to reduce cancer growth by as much as 67%. That’s incredible!
Although exercise alone cannot eliminate tumours, this is nevertheless good news for those starting to exercise. Furthermore, it increases blood flow and new blood vessel formation within the cancer cell. This allows a greater number of cancer-killing cells, literally called ‘natural killer cells’, to enter and work on shrinking that cancer – hence exercise helps cancer by increasing cancer-killing cells.
3. Increase your control
There are so many unknowns with cancer that can make this time nerve-racking and confusing. Increase your sense of control by harnessing the power you have over your ability to exercise.
Nicole Cooper, diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in 2018, said: “I found it energising, the idea that I had something in my control, that I could own. There are so many unknowns with cancer, but that was my project to work on.” Read Nicole’s story here.
Take control of your life by making an exercise plan with your physiotherapist and medical team.
4. Improve the effect of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and anti-hormonal therapy
Traditionally, exercise and cancer were considered a no-no and these treatments were a reason to stop exercising, given their on a senior’s wellbeing.
However, new evidence has proven that exercise not only reduces the toxic effects of treatment but may also improve the effectiveness of the treatment, making exercise a key component of modern cancer treatments.
These are four ways regular exercise can help with cancer treatment, and we’ve only scratched the surface.
To find out more about exercise and cancer or to get in contact with a trained physiotherapist call 1300 797 793 and our friendly team will help you achieve your health and life goals.
Article written by Emily Johnson (physiotherapist – Sydney)