Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Jennifer Ellison-Brown | Physical activity and cancer

Published:Wednesday | June 8, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Many people affected by cancer want to make positive changes to their lives. Taking steps to live a healthier lifestyle can be a big part of this.

We can all benefit from being physically active. It helps reduce the risk of health problems such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. There is also evidence that physical activity can benefit people affected by cancer.

I can attest to this as a result of my experience with cancer. I am a survivor and my involvement in physical activity played a great role in my achievement throughout this fight. From the day I was strong enough after my surgery, I began my physical exercises, which include walking, jogging, flexibility exercises and resistance training.

Today, after four years, I am enjoying a much healthier lifestyle. As a physical education teacher I knew the power of physical activity and therefore I decided not to rely on medical treatment alone to help in this fight.

At first, you might be nervous about involving physical activity, especially if you have not been actively involved for awhile. You may worry or don't know how to start. But even a little physical activity is better than none. It can help you feel less stress and healthier. It can also help you to feel more in control because you are doing something for yourself.




You may start by doing short walks, which can help with muscle strength and cardio respiratory fitness during cancer treatment. After treatment, being physically active can help you cope with and recover from some side effects. Being active can be doing simple daily activities such as housework and gardening. Or it may be more energetic activities such as running, cycling, dancing or going to the gym.

Being physically active after treatment is a positive step in your recovery. It may help to reduce the risk of:

• Late effects of treatment

• Other health problems

• Developing a new cancer

• Certain cancer coming back

Aerobic activities such as running skipping, cycling and swimming may help to protect your heart or reduce the risk of late effects developing in the future after some treat-ment such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy or therapy drugs.

Weight-bearing exercises (activities where you are supporting your body weight) such as walking, dancing or resistance training will help keep bones strong after hormonal therapies for breast and prostate cancer and early menopause due to cancer treatment that increase the risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis).

Hormonal therapy drugs and steroids, which are

sometimes given with chemotherapy, can cause weight gain. Being physically active and eating healthy are major factors in controlling your weight.

Keeping to a healthy weight can help to reduce the risk of:

• Joint problems

• Other health problems

• Certain cancers coming back

• Developing a new cancer

There is some emerging evidence that being active at levels recommended and keeping to a healthy weight can reduce the risk of certain cancers coming back or progressing.




According to Macmillan Cancer Support (2014), third edition, review show that women with breast cancer who walk at an average pace for three to five hours a week after treatment had a reduced risk of the cancer coming back.

Studies have also shown that walking at an average pace for three to six hours per week reduces the risk of bowel cancer coming back. Another study showed that walking briskly for at least three hours a week may reduce the risk of early prostate cancer progressing.

Research is still new and limited to certain cancers, therefore more evidence is needed before it can be stated exactly how much exercise is needed to get benefits and exactly how it may protect against a recurrence of cancer. But so far, the signs are that with certain cancers, being active can make a difference.

More than one in five of us will get cancer. For most of us, it will be the toughest fight we ever face. And the feeling of isolation and loneliness that so many people experience make it harder. However, you don't have to go through it alone. Talk to someone and engage physical activity.