You may remember I wrote a while back about a study which had shown how exercise can help memory and concentration Now , a review of over 100 studies looking at different types (but mainly breast, prostate and bowel cancer) has concluded that people who exercise following diagnosis have a better prognosis, less recurrence and also fewer symptoms /side effects from treatment. Participants will have had different abilities diagnoses and fitness levels however, when these are allowed for, the numbers remain convincing.
Those that exercised had less fatigue (Tiredness), were less likely to be depressed and reported an increased quality of life. There was also evidence to suggest improvements in bone health, sexual function bladder and bowel function and lower rates of anaemia and treatment related side effects.
Additional effects included better sleep, better general physical and mental health, less lymphoedema (swelling of a limb) and improved self image.
So how does exercise do all of this? Well as you would expect research is ongoing but basically exercise seems to improve physical fitness – which means you are more likely to be able to manage the treatments and complete them. It is likely that exercises also helps the medicines move around the body better by improving circulation.
Exercise also creates changes within our body which boost the immune response and affect our stress mechanisms increasing resistance and therefore creating a protective effect.
So after finding out about the good exercise can do how do you do it? Especially when in the midst of everything else it may be the last thing you feel like doing ?
Well first thing is that you don’t have to become a body builder or run a marathon.
It seems building up to 150 mins (Five 30 min sessions) moderate aerobic exercise per week is the aim .
Aerobic exercise is exercise that makes you a bit breathless and raises your heart rate but without causing distress and that you can recover from when you stop. some resistance training a couple of times a week can also be helpful.
That will seem daunting to a lot of you and the emphasis is on making small changes and building up to what is right and manageable for you.
You don’t have to start running or go to the gym (though some gyms do offer specific exercise classes for those who have been unwell). Exercise is much broader and can be whatever you can manage and also enjoy. If you enjoy it you are more likely to continue it regularly and gain more benefit.
Your exercise may be walking to the local shop or to the other side of the room, doing the housework, some gardening, or some gentle stretching in your chair.
It is important not to overdo it. You can talk with your Dr/specialist nurse about any specific exercise you could benefit from or should perhaps avoid, but in general, exercise shouldn’t hurt or leave you breathless when you stop.
Whilst it varies between Centres, all of our Centres offer selection of physical exercise including Nordic walking ,gym sessions , yoga, tai-chi, armchair exercise, gardening , walking to name but a few. Our classes are free, run by qualified instructors. They are a great opportunity to meet others in similar situations and we can help you to work out which is the right activity for you.
You are welcome to contact visit a Centre or contact us online if you would like to talk about your individual situation. You may also like post a comment and let us and other members know more about your experiences of exercise during or after cancer treatment.
For those of you in the West Sussex area you may be interested to know more about the exercises programme run by our friends at CU Fitter
If you are interested in reading the study on exercise I mentioned you can find it here
Blog originally written by Robyn June 2017