Physical Activity Can Make You Cancer-Free Longer
This post has been sponsored by Macmillan, but all thoughts are our own.
Ficklest of all fickle diseases, cancer has a nasty way of recurring long after you’ve believed yourself to be free of the affliction. Physical activity may just stop it in its tracks however.
Mounting evidence has found a link between physical activity – any movement using muscles that improves fitness level – and reduced risk of cancer recurrence. In consequence then, physical activity may increase your cancer survival rate. If anything, ramping up physical activeness may help you cope with adverse effects attendant on cancer treatment, e.g. depression and fatigue. It may even reduce your risk for other conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
UK-based cancer organization Macmillan has recently enlisted the support of BAFTA-winning actress and comedian Jo Brand for Move More, its campaign to get cancer patients moving.
“People will look at me and go, why’s that fat, unfit, menopausal, middle-aged woman telling us what to do? She surely never takes any exercise. Well you’re wrong there, because I do!”
Brand is joined by no less than the National Cancer Institute in America and the American College of Sports Medicine in promoting physical activeness during and after cancer treatment. Whereas in the past doctors would tell you to rest in excess following treatment, times have changed. Lately, the two organizations have advocated the resumption of daily activities as soon as possible after treatment and slowly increasing to recommended levels of physical activity.
“I’m just trying to spread the word and upturn the myth that actually you should be resting after cancer treatment. You shouldn’t, you should be getting out and doing any kind of exercise you can. You don’t have to run a marathon, but you just have to up your activity levels,” Brand said.
Some evidence suggested that taking up physical activity and retaining a leaner body may cut the risk of a cancer returning after remission. In the US, a study showed that breast cancer patients who walked for 3-5 hours on a weekly average cut their risk for recurrence. In another research, brisk walking for a minimum of three hours weekly has been shown to cut the risk of developing early-stage prostate cancer.
These researches are inconclusive and wanting of more duplicable evidence however. Even so, there are some telling indicators that physical activity has an unsubtle effect on cancer. Even the smallest raise in your physical activity can make all the difference.
Benefits of physical activity
Latching on to physical activity may compel cancer to remit and help you recover from its oft-stressful treatments. Physical activity holds significant health corollaries against cancer, many of which you may hitherto have not heard of. If you knew about these benefits, you would truly be motivated to move more like Jo Brand.
Done regularly, physical activity can help manage, if not thwart, adverse effects that may arise from cancer treatment. It is just as recommended thereafter, seeing as some side effects emerge as late as years following treatment. Some side effects are even permanent.
Cancer therapy is notorious, among others, for leaving you fatigued for months after treatment. Moderate or even just light physical activity, e.g. short walks, yoga, and tai chi, can help you pick up energy. However, start slow and slowly increase intensity, lest you end up tiring yourself even more.
Physical activity can also help control stress, anxiety, and depression: ever-present problems resulting from cancer therapy. It does so by compelling the secretion of mood-enhancing hormones, i.e. endorphins, in the body. At the same time, it helps hold back the body’s stress hormones, making for a better night’s sleep, if anything.
Endorphins also help alleviate joint pain caused by certain hormonal treatments prescribed with chemotherapy. Physical activity of itself can help relieve joint pain by strengthening your muscles and improving your range of movement, which may be limited by certain kinds of cancer surgery. The more flexible joints are, the less likely they are to be painful.
Walking, dancing, resistance training, and other weight-bearing activities can help strengthen your bones, especially when they’re at their frailest. Osteoporosis or bone thinning is known to result from hormonal treatments for prostate and breast cancer as well as chemotherapy-induced menopause.
Resistance training, on the other hand, is the solution to making your muscles stronger during and after cancer treatment. Muscle strength declines during this period because of longer hours of bed rest and steroids given with chemotherapy.
Steroids in chemotherapy can conspire with your sedentary lifestyle to make you gain weight, exacerbating the situation. Obesity and overweight heightens your risk for breast, bowel and womb cancers. In light of this, being more physically active can decrease your risk of developing a new type of cancer, while maintaining a healthy weight can slash the possibility of a cancer coming back.
Being more physically activity may help you regain your pre-treatment appetite too. Take short walks every day, and you would see for yourself. In addition, physical activity alongside a high-fiber diet helps counter constipation caused by particular chemotherapy drugs.
Regular exercise, particularly aerobic activities, may hold positive dividends for your heart. It preempts the risk of developing heart-related conditions, usually brought about by chemotherapy agents (e.g. epirubicin and doxorubicin) and radiotherapy administered too close to the heart. Furthermore, regular physical activity can decrease your susceptibility to other deadly conditions like high blood pressure, kidney disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Taking up physical activity today
Should you choose to become more physically active during or after treatment, you should be the arbiter of the amount of activity you can realistically do. Talk to a cancer specialist about appropriate physical activities for you concurrent with and subsequent to treatment.
An activity may simply be a question of lessening periods of rest. You may choose from a range of activities involving anything from walking to gardening to weightlifting. It is up to you how much of these you should do. Take into account your likes, fitness level, and other circumstances.
You may consider taking up physical activity with other individuals, e.g. family members and exercise group mates. Also consider being active outside an enclosed space, as in a park or a forest trail.
Whether you are living with or are in convalescence from cancer, physical activity is relatively safe. At first, you may feel testy about taking your physical activeness to another level, especially if you have been leading a sedentary lifestyle for a long time. You may feel overwhelmed, with not so much an idea as how to start.
Remember that any amount of physical activity is light years better than not moving at all. Physical activity offers infinite, hitherto-unknown opportunities for cancer recovery. If Jo Brand can do it, her pounds and all, so can you.