The effects of physical activity on medical intervention

 

Physical Activity is Appropriate During and After Treatment

Despite the general consensus amongst the public, physical activity is actually both appropriate and recommended for cancer patients. Guidelines have been published and it is acknowledged by healthcare professionals that the attitude of ‘resting up’ during treatment is no longer the most prudent course of action, as it will only lead to patients tiring further

The American College of Sports Medicine has stated that not only is physical activity safe during and after most types of cancer treatment, but that it is highly recommended that patients avoid becoming physically inactive [Schmitz K. Courneya K., American College of Sports Medicine Roundtable on Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors, Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, 2010]
The Department of Health has stated that its usual guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week is appropriate and recommended for cancer survivors [Department of Health, Start Active, Stay Active, A report on physical activity for health from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers, 2011, www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_127931]
The British Association of Sports and Exercise Science has echoed the recommendations of the ACSM, recommending physical activity during and after treatment and urging survivors to avoid inactivity [Campbell A, Stevinson C, Crank H, The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences Expert Statement on Exercise and Cancer Survivorship, The Sport and Exercise Scientist, 2011, 28:16-17]

Physical Activity can Reduce the Debilitating Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

There are so many people living with the long-term side effects of cancer and treatment, both physical and emotional, which significantly impacts on quality of their life, sometimes up to as long as ten years after treatment. There is increasing scientific evidence which shows that participating in regular physical activity can greatly reduce the impact of these side effects, helping greatly improve the lives of patients past and present.

During Macmillan’s evidence review into the effects of physical activity on cancer patients they highlighted they contrary to popular belief, participating in regular physical activity increases energy levels and reduces fatigue [Macmillan Cancer Support, The importance of physical activity for people living with and beyond cancer: A concise evidence review, 2011]
The same review also found that participating in regular physical activity can reduce the impact of side effects such as lymphedema, depression, anxiety and impaired mobility [Macmillan Cancer Support, The importance of physical activity for people living with and beyond cancer: A concise evidence review, 2011]
The review further demonstrated the long-term effects physical activity can have on the impact of side effects, showing it to be an effective means of recovering physical function and managing fatigue, whilst improving quality of life and mental health and helping to control body weight [Macmillan Cancer Support, The importance of physical activity for people living with and beyond cancer: A concise evidence review, 2011]

Physical Activity can Reduce the Rate of Mortality and Recurrence of Cancer

Probably the biggest advantage of participating in regular activity both during and after treatment. Physical activity help boost the immune system and gives the body the best chance of fighting off disease, increasing chances of survival, whilst continued participation can prevent it coming back again.

Breast and prostate cancer patients can decrease their risk of dying from the disease by 30-40% by participating in the recommended levels of physical activity, compared to those who do less than one hour per week [The figures quoted are based upon evidence reviewed as part of: Macmillan Cancer Support, The Impact of Physical Activity on Improving Cancer Survivorship: A Concise Evidence Review, 2011]
Bowel Cancer patients who participate in as little as six hours moderate intensity physical activity per week could reduce their risk of dying from the disease by around 50%, compared to those who do less than one hour per week [Meyerhardt, JA, Heseltine D, Niedzwiecki D, Hollis D, Saltz LB, Mayer RJ, Thomas J, Nelson H, Whittom R, Hantel A, Schilsky, RL, Fuchs CS, Impact of physical activity on cancer recurrence and survival in patients with stage III colon cancer: findings from CALGB 89803, Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2006, 24: 3535-3541] [Meyerhardt JA, Giovannucci EL, Holmes MD, Chan AT, Chan JA, Colditz GA, Fuchs CS, Physical activity and survival after colorectal cancer diagnosis, Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2006, 24: 3527-3534]
Evidence is also beginning to emerge of participation in regular physical activity reducing the recurrence of breast and bowel cancer [Holmes MD et al., Physical Activity and survival after breast cancer diagnosis, JAMA, 2005, 293(20): 2479-86, 2005] [Meyerhardt, JA, Heseltine D, Niedzwiecki D, Hollis D, Saltz LB, Mayer RJ, Thomas J, Nelson H, Whittom R, Hantel A, Schilsky, RL, Fuchs CS, Impact of physical activity on cancer recurrence and survival in patients with stage III colon cancer: findings from CALGB 89803, Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2006, 24: 3535-3541]
Physical activity is also shown to be important for those receiving palliative care and that even in the last months of life improvements can be seen in physical function, symptoms and quality of life [Lowe S, Watanabe SM, Courneya KS, Physical activity as a supportive care intervention in palliative care patients: a systematic review, Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2009, 7: 27-34]