Exercise and Cancer

Many studies are currently being released regarding the relationship between cancer and exercise, and many of us have been touched by cancer in some fashion.  New research shows links between prevention and survival of cancer with exercise, which is exciting*.  Cancer used to be a death sentence, but with today’s technology cancer doesn’t have to be, and adding exercise to your daily life now, can help you ward off the disease or be more successful in survival, not to mention providing a higher quality of life as one goes through treatment.

Exercising does not have to be overwhelming. A recent study touted the risk of dying from breast cancer cut by 25 percent with one to three hours of walking and 54 percent when time is increased to three to five hours. It seems a combination of exercise formats can be beneficial. According to Exercises for Cancer Supportive Care by Kathleen Dzubur, MS; Francine Manuel, RPT; Gary Abrams, MD; Lee Erman, NCTMB; Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD

Scientific research has documented that walking or bicycling 30 – 45 minutes per session, 3 – 5 days per week produces the following benefits: decreased nausea, decreased fatigue , increased physical endurance and increased quality of life. The benefits are believed to come from effects on hormone levels, adiposity, gut transport time, and endorphines produced by exercise that are believed to affect mood. Various types of aerobic and resistive exercises also improve the functioning of the heart/lung/circulation (cardiovascular system) and strength of the muscles. Aerobic exercise programs have added benefit of increasing the red blood cell count positively affecting the fatigue suffered by cancer patients undergoing treatment. While receiving the various cancer therapies, minimizing deconditioning of the body is the main goal of an exercise program. The better condition you can maintain your body, the better you will tolerate the side affects of chemotherapy, radiation and other invasive treatments. It will also be easier to do the required activities of daily living

The American College of Sports Medicine outline guidelines for beginning an exercise program to support cancer treatment. “Exercise programs for cancer patients should be developed from the screening information, the exercise assessments, and the exercise prescription. Patients that are in treatment will not have “linear” progression from exercise session to exercise session. They should expect to experience “ups and downs” from the cancer treatment; therefore before each exercise session the cancer exercise specialist should re-evaluate the exercise prescription.”

It must be stressed that beginning an exercise program while you are also undergoing the stress of a disease or other aliment takes patience, perseverance, and kindness for yourself. It is important to communicate with your health care provider and find a personal trainer who is experienced with cancer recovery. It is vital to find support because some days will be very hard, others very tired, and others will be wonderful, find someone who can support those ups and downs while you are walking the path of cancer.

*Please Note: Exercise is not a cure all for cancer, but overwhelming amounts of research support it as a benefit. Also, talk with your health care provider before beginning any exercise program.


Exercises for Cancer Supportive Care; Kathleen Dzubur, MS; Francine Manuel, RPT; Gary Abrams, MD; Lee Erman, NCTMB; Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MDhttp://www.cancersupportivecare.com/exercises.html

ACSM Fit Society Page – Winter 2003

The Role of Exercise in Recovery from Cancer Treatment; Carole Schneider, PhD, FACSM and Susan D Carter, M.D., Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute

ACSM – http://www.acsm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Search§ion=20033&template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentFileID=28

Study Shows Exercise Boosts Breast Cancer Survival Rates; Marilynn Marchoione

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Duluth News Tribune – www.duluthnewstribune.com