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Exercise and cancer; what’s the relationship?

We all know that exercise is good for us; but what if you found out that there is a strong relationship between exercise and cancer? What if exercising during chemotherapy can actually double your chance of fighting off cancer? Groundbreaking new research is showing just that; prescribed specific targeted exercises designed for individual tumours is having very real positive effective on beating cancer.

While the trials are ongoing, the early results are positive, and medical professionals are excited.

Exercise is about blood flow; and so is cancer

In a very summarised explanation, it’s all to do with blood flow.  Tumours have really poor blood supply, and this is the biggest hurdle to getting the chemo into the tumour.  Exercise increases blood flow, potentially allowing more chemical into the tumour; which leads to increasing its effectiveness if you exercise directly before or after chemo.

Something else to note is that fatigue is a common effect of cancer treatments and regular exercise is something that can assist with improving fatigue levels.

So what it the relationship between exercise and cancer? It is looking more likely that exercise plays a much larger role in the fight than previously recognised.

Different exercise for different cancers?

Research so far is showing different types of cancers respond differently to different types of exercise programs.  While there is yet to be a treatment or cure that magically helps everyone, it seems exercise is proving a key component of helping hit cancer head on, while maintaining weight, bone density and muscle mass through this fight.

Our own immune system is the best defence against cancer, and building this up through regular exercise is a great step to take. But not just walking; your exercise needs to be a mix of aerobic, non-aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and balance. Ideally, mix it up a little.

So what exercise can you do?

For best results you want a combination of aerobic, strength and flexibility training. Guidelines recommended by Exercise Physiologists and the American College of Sports Medicine for cancer patients/survivors are:

Moderate intensity aerobic exercise

At least 3 days each week for at least 20 minutes each session. This can be brisk walking, water aerobics or on a stationary bicycle. Remember in order to see improvements you need to challenge yourself. This means you should feel a little out of breath at the end of each aerobic session.

Strength training 2-3 days each week

This can be body weight exercises, using gym equipment (if your facility has a gym) and resistance bands. A program developed for the individual would have 1-3 sets of 3-5 repetitions of each chosen exercise building up to 8-15 repetitions as the client improve in capability. Examples of strength exercises are:

  • Body weight – sit to stands, back bridge (or hip thrust) and wall push ups
  • Gym equipment – Chest press, leg press, cable row, leg curl or leg extension with ankle weights, bicep curl and shoulder press with hand weights and many more.
  • Resistance bands – Seated or standing chest press, seated or standing row, bicep curls and leg press.

S – T – R – E – T – C – H !

Most days of the week target the major muscle groups and holding each stretch for a minimum 30 seconds.

If you would like to have an exercise program drawn up for you by an accredited Mobile Rehab exercise physiologist, contact:

Mobile Rehab

1300 363 483



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