Kerry Courneya of the University of Alberta was one of the great pioneers in the introduction of exercise into cancer treatment. “Cancer diagnosis & treatments are often associated with negative side effects that diminish the quality of life: Overall studies have shown that physical exercise following cancer diagnosis has a positive effect on the quality of life.” Quality of life includes strength, stamina, self esteem, improved treatment tolerance, decreased pain, satisfaction with life & functional capacity – the ability to continue with day to day demands independently.
The challenge here is exercise requirements are very different for different cancers, and different cancer treatments. And where the skill of the cancer exercise specialist comes in is the individual’s response to treatment. This can really make the difference in how well the body responds to treatment. Unfortunately, people tend to think exercise is exercise. Albeit physical activity is always welcome and stimulates circulation, exercise demands need to be honed.
The fitness program for cancer recovery is not only designed for activity, but it is also equally designed for rest. Many cancer patients have a very difficult time getting true rest. A good fitness plan to accompany cancer treatment assures good rest. Choosing the right type of exercise which also engages relaxation techniques (an equal partner to cardio respiratory, strength & stretching), encourages a deeper sleep. Sleep aids and supplements can either be very short lived, or have potentially nasty drug interactions with other treatment medications.
Cancer treatments themselves such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can dramatically decrease exercise strength and motivation. Therefore, the FITT (frequency, intensity, time, type)of the exercise program has to be carefully planned to support treatment. Certain cancer treatments, especially those used to treat childhood cancers, can have negative long term effects on the heart and lungs. The carefully chosen exercise protocol can help lessen long term side effects of treatment.
Recovery from Surgery: There are certain postural issues that arise after surgery (mastectomy) and lymph node dissections, and the complexities are compounded with reconstruction and radiation. Serious postural implications, muscular imbalances and tightness are the norm here, again Prostate Protocol compounded by followup treatments such as chemotherapy & radiation. Unfortunately, most people unknowingly add to muscular imbalances with training ( I see personal trainers do this too!) Postural deviations are not just about aesthetics, they can lead to chronic pain, balance issues which can lead to balance issues and increase the risk of falling and injury. Regular postural assessments and checks for muscular imbalances are a necessary component of cancer exercise training.
Cardio respiratory training can be a cancer patients path to rebuilding stamina and combatting fatigue and depression, endorphins are magical for all of us. However, yes for some cancers we need to really assure keeping body fat percentage in check (as in breast cancer and prostate cancer). Other cancers, weight loss is a serious threat – so again we need to find that balance depending on type of cancer, treatment, and response to treatment.
Muscle cachexia is a serious threat to many cancer patients due to treatment, poor nutrient absorption due to compromised digestive capabilities. Choosing exercises that increase flexibility, preserve even encourage muscle hypertrophy, helps people with strength, sugar uptake (excess sugar in the bloodstream is lethal for cancer recovery)and of course enables people to continue with their functional demands.
Exercise is cancer treatments best partner. Worthy of its own article is the ability of again the right exercise to help treatments target the cancer cells, and preserve the healthy cells. Exercise enabling cancer treatment is truly an area worthy of the word infinite, and the even better news – more good news on this partnership is discovered regularly. The right treatment, dosage though, is front and center.