As a fitness professional interested in a holistic approach to health and wellness, and also as a family member and close friend of cancer survivors, I have wondered how many people are told by their healthcare professionals about the benefits exercise can bring to their lives both during and after treatment. So I decided to look into it, and found a report published by Macmillan Cancer Support which formed the basis of their “Move More” campaign launched in August of 2011.
The aim of the report, and subsequent campaign, is to encourage those undergoing treatment and survivors to build physical exercise into their daily lives, whether they have been active previously or not. It also aims to encourage healthcare professionals at all levels to speak to their patients about, and place an emphasis on, the benefits of exercise as an integral part of their overall treatment strategy. Given the findings of the Macmillan studies, and by talking to my friends, this does not seem to be happening on a regular basis at present. The longstanding mantra of the medical profession still focuses on resting in order to recover.
The reason for the Macmillan call to action and campaign is based on exciting and positive evidence which suggests that incorporating at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week can help to mitigate the physical and psychological side effects of both the cancer diagnosis itself, and the treatment; For example, Depression, Fatigue, Heart Disease and Osteoporosis. It also helps people to maintain, or return to, Muscular Strength, Flexibility, Cardio Vascular Fitness and, also crucially, can assist in promoting Self-Confidence and Esteem.
There is compelling evidence to show that physical exercise can reduce the risk of the recurrence of breast and bowel cancers. And, although the evidence regarding survival rates is still developing, the picture seems to be very encouraging.
As is the case with any member of the general population, the sort of physical activity prescribed for people undergoing cancer treatment and survivors must be appropriate, tailored to the individual’s needs, and contain a carefully structured and phased progression. No health or fitness professional would suggest that anyone should go from little or no activity to running marathons within a matter of weeks. But, in saying that, if training for such an event is a realistic longer term goal, then surely it should be encouraged for any number of reasons. Being physically fit feels great for any of us, but to those undergoing treatment, or a survivor, the sense can be especially keen. Also having a fitness goal to aim for is a positive step towards focusing on the future, and not the events of the past.
So, whilst it’s undeniably true that rest and recuperation is vital to cancer patients and survivors in order to ensure that the body can heal and repair itself, physical activity and exercise, in whatever shape or form it is undertaken, should also be an integral part of the treatment plan and beyond.
About the Author: Sue Fawcett is a registered Personal Trainer in Maidenhead, Berkshire, and regularly helps Cancer patients and survivors with bespoke training programs. http://www.tempuspersonaltraining.co.uk