Nutrition: fitness and cancer

Friday 04 May 2018

Hi everyone, I wish all of you a good new year, a time for renewed vigour and determination perhaps, certainly a time when most people take stock of themselves and look for ways to improve what has been going on.

With this in mind the blog this week is on exercise, which goes hand in hand with good nutrition, and the benefits for those with cancer and those in remission. Now before you hide under the duvet and the think this sounds all to energetic read on.

According to research we do not have to do the lycra and matching ankle warmers and get down the gym to get benefit, (that’s a relief I can hear you saying). It is surprising how simple it can be.  I thought we could look at the evidence and benefits and the best ways to go about it according to your circumstances.


The benefits of exercise
Quite obviously there may be some limitations to exercise according to where you are with your treatment and if the treatment that you have had limits your capacity for much movement. Even so by putting in place adequate precautions some exercise is recommended. Research has been building since the 1980’s about the benefits of exercise and this has been spelled out in a review by Macmillan and YouGov, who have looked at results of systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials showing that exercise improves physical function and psychological wellbeing. The research even goes as far as showing that it could reduce fatigue, aid recovery and the risk of some cancers returning which in turn improves survival rates.

When I was looking at the whole topic I found loads of research on this and all of it is very favourable. I thought it would be worth looking in more detail to see if it will inspire those who need inspiration and motivate those already at it. I do know that there will be times when it just won’t happen full stop but consider the following. It has been shown to:

Regain helpful muscle. It is important to try and maintain muscle mass for strength and better mobility and is said to be fundamental for the recovery process. This is because muscles act as a reservoir for the body’s protein supplies and as we know protein is essential to help combat fatigue, to supply the raw material from which hormones, neurotransmitters and enzymes are made and it is vital to aid recovery from operations and trauma.

Release happy hormones.Exercise causes the production of endorphins, often called happy hormones, in the body. These endorphins can help to combat any feelings of low mood or depression that may be lingering. Endorphins also help to balance and neutralise the stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. As we know, too much cortisol surging through the body can have a negative impact on the immune system lowering our natural resistance. Endorphins also help to reduce levels of insulin growth like factor which encourages cells to grow. We looked at this in more detail when I covered the blog on dairy foods.

Reduce visceral and circulating fat levels. Visceral fat is the fat that surrounds our internal organs, some is obviously essential but generally speaking we all have too much and as fat holds toxins the less visceral fat we have the less toxic we will be. Fat also stores the female hormone oestrogen that as we know can drive many cancers.

Reduce blood glucose levels. Exercise reduces our blood glucose levels as this is burned during the first 20minutes of exercise. High glucose levels can be a cause of inflammation in the body and most books written on cancer and diet suggest that cancer cells grow in a high glucose environment hence the recommendations to keep sugar and sugary foods to a minimum.

Eliminate toxins. A high level of toxins in the body can interfere with its natural function and can cause damage to the cells. For this reason it is desirable to keep our toxic levels down, Obviously this can be done by reducing our intake of processed foods and being more conscious of toxins in the environment but also by increasing our activity as this  increases blood flow and the elimination of toxins via the skin through perspiration, the bowels and kidneys with our natural waste. It is important that you try and drink as much water as you can during exercise to help your body eliminate these toxins.

Helps to prevent osteoporosis Something many post menopausal and most women who have had hormone related cancers will be too well aware of. Obviously a diet rich in vitamin D, calcium and magnesium is going to be beneficial but so too is exercise as it encourages remodelling of the bone adding strength and increasing the density. Weight bearing exercise seems to be the best, so a good brisk walk or yoga or tai chi or even dancing are options.  

Improve the free flow of energy. This sounds nice doesn’t it. Basically it is the flow of energy or vitality through the body. Krilian photographs of cancer patients who exercise regularly shows that their energy profile becomes stronger and more balanced. I have done a course in kinesiology and one thing I was taught was that cross walking  (also called cross crawling) when you swing the opposite arm and leg is meant to rebalance the left and right side of the brain making us think more clearly and improve our sense of wellbeing. Interesting!!. It is not difficult to do and apparently 5 minutes a day has a huge beneficial impact. This is where you might like to start. I know people who do it by marching on the spot to music touching one hand on the opposite knee.

Making it manageable
All of this reads well doesn’t it. The idea is to do what you can even if it is to walk a few hundred yards a day and slowly build up, or sit in the chair and move your arms and legs, circulate ankles etc. Remember the longest road starts with the first step. I like this saying. Not sure where I read it but it stuck with me and I often remember it when I have a challenge ahead.

Blog originally written by Caroline January 2013

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