Exercise is primary factor in fighting cancer say Macmillan Cancer Support

Macmillan Cancer Support’s new message is Move More – physical activity, the underrated wonder drug!

The cancer support charity has recently stated that “Family and friends could be doing more harm than good by insisting people with cancer ‘take it easy’ when they are going through treatment and recovery.” They add that “family and friends have a crucial role in supporting people to become physically active, which evidence shows significantly benefits recovery and can avoid the disease progressing.”

There are two million people living with and beyond cancer in the UK, and this is increasing by 3.2 per cent every year. If current trends continue, nearly four million people will be living with cancer by 2030.

New evidence from a survey by YouGov for Macmillan Cancer Support shows that physical activity after treatment for cancer can reduce the impact of some debilitating side effects, such as swelling around the arm, anxiety, depression, fatigue, impaired mobility and weight changes. Exercise is now termed VITAL in order to strengthen muscles and bones, improve fitness and weight management and aid well-being and mental health.

It can also lower the chances of getting heart disease and osteoporosis, a long term risk amongst cancer survivors.

Emerging evidence shows that achieving sufficient activity levels (current guidelines are 150 minutes per week) can reduce the risk of dying from breast, bowel and prostate cancer, and reduce the recurrence for breast and bowel cancer. For example, breast cancer patient’s risk of recurrence and of dying from the disease can be reduced by up to 40% by doing recommended levels of physical activity.

The review concludes that good evidence exists to support the promotion of physical activity throughout the cancer care pathway. Activity should be promoted to patients at all stages of cancer from initial diagnosis through to the later stages, where being active can continue to benefit physical function and quality of life. The evidence shows that if an activity recommendation is carefully tailored to the individual, and takes account of potential side effects, it is likely to have a positive impact.

So, if someone close to you has cancer, has undergone treatment, or has just had a diagnosis, probably the most valuable thing you can do to support them is to encourage either a continuation of their current exercise routine or establish a new pattern of physical activity. My friend, a training and education manager for Macmillan, tells me that they are all very excited about the recent findings on the benefits of exercise in alleviating side effects of cancer treatment and of the highly encouraging data on reduced recurrence of cancer through regular exercise. Tell everyone – MOVE MORE!

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