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Does Exercise Help Fight Cancer?

This blog was first published on 6th Feb 2019. It has been updated to include the video above for World Cancer Day 2020

Many studies prove that exercising on a regular basis helps build strength, improves mood, controls weight and helps prevent health conditions and diseases but can it really combat cancer?

As we kick off this week with world cancer day, our physiotherapists and instructors have gathered together to address some “myth or must” questions!

Can I exercise if I am receiving treatment for cancer?

YES!

Throughout treatment a patient’s immune system is often compromised.
Cancer treatments can cause fatigue, sickness, and appetite loss. None of which help with a “get up and go” frame of mind. However, if you can motivate yourself to exercise at your own pace, you will feel more positive. Each day will become easier as your immune system builds along with your strength and mobility.

Most people are aware that Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise that helps build muscle strength. It can also be beneficial for people with cancer. Taking on exercise like Pilates, can help reduce stress and tiredness, improve mood and potentially increase the quality of day to day life for people going through cancer treatment.

The more active you are the greater the benefits, but you must consult your doctor before taking on anything considered “strenuous”.

What exercises can I NOT do if I have cancer?

There are no limits to what you can do to exercise while fighting cancer.
This is because there are more than 100 different types of cancer, all of which affect people differently. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to exercising before, during or after cancer. So each case is specific to the individual and the treatment.

For example, you will want to avoid cycling if you have been diagnosed with colon cancer, you may also feel uncomfortable wearing a swimsuit if you have undergone a mastectomy. It all depends on what you feel most comfortable doing, but it is possible to build up your exercise pattern as you progress.

We do recommend avoiding high impact sports and weight lifting if you’re currently having treatment for cancer.

Exercise and cancer - A group of people lying on their backs on exercise mats wearing gym clothes

Will exercise help me fight my cancer?

Not only does exercise give you a positive frame of mind but it will also help your recovery from cancer treatment, therefore aiding your fight against the disease.

Treatments can reduce your immunity so much so it can become deadlier than the cancer itself. Remaining active can boost your immunity, not just helping you fight the cancer but also reducing your chance of recurrence.

What are the benefits to preventing cancer from returning.

Many who have already defeated cancer return with a healthy ambition to exercise more due to the massive benefits of fending off a returning diagnosis.
In recent studies gathered by Macmillan, it found that people who took regular exercise had an average of a –

40% lower risk of breast cancer returning
50% lower risk of colon cancer returning or dying of colorectal cancer
30% lower risk of men dying from prostate cancer

These studies also showed improvements in physical function and psychological well being.

Can exercise prevent cancer?

YES – Regular exercise plays a key role in preventing cancer by helping lower blood estrogen, reduce sex hormones and insulin levels, all of which can play a part in rapid cell growth or gene mutation. Exercising has many other benefits such as releasing endorphins and serotonin to help improve your mood. This in turn encourages you to be more active and improve your quality of life.

Other ways to help prevent cancer are –

  • A healthy diet including plenty of fibrous whole grains
  • Avoiding nicotine
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Protecting yourself from the sun
  • Regular medical checkups
  • We recommend at least 30 minutes of aerobic, rhythmic or flexibility exercises per day in line with Department of Health guidelines of 150 minutes per week, up to five days a week to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Exercise and cancer - An overhead shot of a woman wearing grey gym clothes performing a leg stretch on a pink gym mat on wooden flooring

Good to know

Cancer patients may have a vulnerable immune system depending on the treatment given. In this period of time you are more susceptible to contracting illnesses which can negatively affect your treatment. To minimise the risk of picking up an illness, consult your doctor before taking up exercises in public areas, especially in confined spaces, such as gyms and swimming centres.

Chemotherapy patients may experience cycles of sickness and fatigue depending on the treatment. It is always recommended to keep a diary to help identify the patterns and adjust the intensity of your exercises accordingly.

Avoid high risk contact sports due to potential negative effects on your bone density during treatment.

Is there a right time to start an exercising program?

If you have just been diagnosed, or are currently undergoing treatment then your body will tell you when it is ready to start moving. There is no clear answer when to begin as everyone has a different journey and must go at their own pace.

However, most people “healthy” or otherwise, will always benefit with exercising in the morning. On days of high fatigue, take a rest day.

When starting, consult your doctor. Most recommendations given will be on based on your medical condition at the time and will be dependent on treatment requirements.

All our answers are based on extended research and studies performed by UK registered charities or governing bodies to ensure our information is accurate as can be at the time of writing.

For further information or questions on developing a personal Pilates exercise plan whilst undergoing Cancer treatment please contact us, you can discuss your options with one of our Clinical Pilates Instructors or Physiotherapists.

DISCLAIMER:

Before participating in any exercise program that may be described and/or made accessible in or through our website, we strongly recommend that you consult with a physician or other healthcare provider.

This site offers health, fitness and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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2020-01-30T17:26:33+00:00