Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Effect of Exercise on Cancer

Guest Post

In an effort to conserve strength and energy, many people incorrectly assume cancer patients shouldn’t exercise; however, nothing could be further from the truth. Studies by cancer researcher organizations, including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA have demonstrated regular exercise can reduce the risk, proliferation and reoccurrence of cancer.

The benefits of exercise and fitness for cancer patients are numerous. Exercise bolsters the immune system, making the body more resistant to disease, and studies have demonstrated people with higher fitness levels have an increased immunological response. Patients with higher fitness levels are better able to deal with both the physiological and psychological stress of cancer treatment, and can help in actually fighting the disease itself.

One of the most critical times for cancer patients is immediately after being diagnosed, and during this time exercise can greatly reduce the feelings of despair. As reported by Matthew Wiggins, Ed.D., of Murray State University, cancer patients develop both physiological and psychological side-effects as a result of cancer treatment. Side effects include, but at not limited to, significant increases in physical fatigue with decreased feelings of overall well-being, including psychological distress and increased anxiety.

During exercise the body releases endorphins, a natural opiate, which generate an overall feeling of well-being. Exercise increases energy levels, providing patients not only the strength to get through their treatments, but the energy to execute regular daily activities, improving the patient’s overall quality of life and ability to carry on with their normal lives.

A common reason cancer patients fail to exercise is due to a lack of having enough energy to begin an exercise routine. Cancer treatment can be draining, sapping energy so the patient doesn’t even feel like moving, and this can be especially true for cancers, which require very aggressive courses of treatments, such as mesothelioma. However, patients can reap the benefits of increased fitness levels without having to exercise for prolonged periods.

The effect of exercise on fitness levels is cumulative. Short periods of exercise throughout the day have the same effect as extended workouts of the same intensity. For example, a short 10 minute walk three times a day will increase a patient’s fitness level to the same degree as a single 30 minute daily walk.

It is important to realize there is no evidence that exercise in itself will cure cancer, but regular exercise will help the cancer patient deal with the physical and psychological rigors of both the disease and treatment. As part of a complete and integrated treatment program, regular exercise is a tool that no cancer patient should overlook.

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