It’s widely agreed that exercise can help people with and beyond cancer improve fatigue, anxiety, overall physical health and so. But “exercise” is such a large word, no patient knew how much and what type of exercise they should do, or on what frequency before.
Luckily, there finally comes a review of research which has resulted in the development of new exercise guidelines for cancer patients and survivors.
Is exercise effective?
According to the researchers, exercise is important for cancer prevention and can lower the risk of developing colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, bladder, esophagus and stomach cancers.
Exercise during and after cancer treatment can help improve fatigue, anxiety, depression, physical function, and quality of life, and can also help improve survival after a breast, colon or prostate cancer diagnosis.
So the answer is positive: exercise does benefit cancer patients.
Previous exercise suggestion for cancer patients and survivors
In the past time, cancer survivors were recommended to meet the general public health guidelines for all Americans, about 150 minutes of exercise a week. However, that was because there were no studies on how much exercise the specific group of people needed, scientists could only recommend the same amount of time to them.
The new guidelines recommend cancer survivors perform aerobic and resistance training for approximately 30 minutes per session, three times a week.
For cancer patients, the recommendation is 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise three time a week and 20-30 minutes of resistance exercise twice a week.
Giving FITT exercise means using exercise prescribed to patients in specific frequency, intensity, time and type to reach specific outcomes like quality of life, fatigue, pain and others. For example. Cancer patients with or beyond head and neck cancer or bladder cancer receive different arrangements of exercise.
Kathryn Schmitz, professor of public health sciences, said the recommendations will help with one of the premier goals of Moving Through Cancer: raising public awareness about the benefits of exercise for people living with and beyond cancer by 2029.
The new recommendations for cancer prevention and cancer patients and survivors
For all adults, exercise is important for cancer prevention and specifically lowers risk of seven common types of cancer: colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, bladder, esophagus and stomach;
For cancer survivors, incorporate exercise to help improve survival after a diagnosis of breast, colon and prostate cancer;
Exercising during and after cancer treatment improves fatigue, anxiety, depression, physical function, quality of life and does not exacerbate lymphedema;
Continue research that will drive the integration of exercise into the standard of care for cancer;
Translate into practice the increasingly robust evidence base about the positive effects of exercise for cancer patients.
There is a call to action for health care professionals and policy makers to help guide awareness and practice of exercise as medicine for people living with and beyond cancer. I hope in the near future this policy or a set of rules can come out because I do know how exercise would benefit cancer patients or survivors.