It’s universally acknowledged that exercise is good for us. But new medical research shows that getting more exercise may offer a significant boost to people fighting cancer.
A researcher with the Penn State College of Medicine said the health benefits of exercise for common conditions like obesity, heart disease and hypertension have been well understood since the 1950s. Now the evidence is good that exercise can significantly improve cancer recovery efforts, according to Penn’s Prof. Kathryn Schmitz.
Schmitz said exercise can not only assist in overcoming cancer but lower our chances of getting it in the first place. This is supported by another recent study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine headquartered in Indianapolis.
Prof. Schmitz reported her findings in the CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. She said there is a growing need for the 43 million cancer survivors worldwide to become more aware of what exercise can do to help them beat their disease. Only about 45% of cancer survivors are physically active. Turning that around could make a big difference for millions of people.
One of the reasons so few cancer patients exercise is lack of understanding by their doctors. The American College of Sports Medicine study points out that just 9% of nurses and 19% to 23% of oncology physicians encourage their patients to adopt some form of regular exercise. The authors of the study say cancer physicians simply may not know about the benefits of exercise in fighting the disease. Others may believe it will pose safety risks for their patients.
Prof. Schmitz and her fellow researchers propose that 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise three times a week is an entirely safe regimen for cancer patients. It will produce no harm and may do a lot of good. They also recommend 20 to 30 minutes of resistance-type exercise at least twice a week.
Prof. Schmitz has published two other papers on the exercise-cancer connection. She said the research has advanced to the point where medical professionals can now offer specific types of exercise programs tailor-made for the kind of cancer an individual patient is being treated for. Targeting exercise programs means spelling out frequency, intensity, time and type of exercise.
This can only be accomplished, however, if more health care providers are made aware of the benefits of exercise. They also need information and guidelines for specific exercise programs to offer their patients.