Should You Exercise When Treating Cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1 in 25 Americans are now cancer survivors. This number shows how prevalent the disease is, and has also prompted experts to look at the ways patients can improve their health, quality of life, and chances of survival.
Exercise for Cancer Patients
Because of the physical toll cancer (and its treatment) takes on the human body, patients who are treating cancer may wonder if exercise is even safe.
In 2012, a panel convened by the American Cancer Society concluded that, not only is exercise safe during cancer treatment, it can help improve physical functioning, fatigue, and multiple quality of life factors for patients.
Other studies have even suggested that exercise may help increase survival rates among patients with malignant recurrent glioma (an aggressive brain cancer), breast, and colon cancers.
"I would strongly hypothesize that the benefits from exercise—particularly for improving quality of life-would extend to all cancers," said Melinda Irwin, PhD, MPH, Yale School of Medicine, at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research.
These conclusions are not that surprising, given the well-established benefits of physical activity. The National Cancer Institute says that exercise helps:
- Control weight
- Maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints
- Reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes
- Reduce the risk of death from heart disease and premature death
- Promote psychological well-being
Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors—and Everyone Else
The American College of Sports Medicine strongly recommends the following exercise guidelines for people with cancer and cancer survivors, which are the same guidelines that apply to the general public:
- Adults 18 to 64 should engage in 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity every week. Sessions should last at least 10 minutes, and should be spread throughout the week, if possible. (Brisk walking would be an example of aerobic exercise.)
- Adults should also practice strength training of the major muscle groups at least twice a week.
- Adults over 65 should follow these recommendations if possible or as ability allows.
- People with anemia, compromised immune function, severe fatigue, or other conditions may need to wait or make accommodations.
- A physician should be consulted before beginning an exercise program.
Emily Ruden, David A. Reardon, April D. Coan, James E. Herndon II, Whitney E. Hornsby, Miranda West, Diane R. Fels, Annick Desjardins, James J. Vredenburgh, Emily Waner, Allan H. Friedman, Henry S. Friedman, Katherine B. Peters, and Lee W. Jones, "Exercise Behavior, Functional Capacity, and Survival in Adults With Malignant Recurrent Glioma," Journal of Clinical Oncology 29 (21) (2011): 2918-2923, doi:10.1200/JCO.2011.34.9852. http://jco.ascopubs.org/content/29/21/2918.full.pdf+html?sid=8e4a83f6-fba2-409b-bc9e-b41cd7ab83b4
Ruud Knols, Neil K. Aaronson, Daniel Uebelhart, Jaap Fransen, and Geert Aufdemkampe, "Physical Exercise in Cancer Patients During and After Medical Treatment: A Systematic Review of Randomized and Controlled Clinical Trials," Journal of Clinical Oncology 23(16) (2005): 3830-3842, DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2005.02.148. http://www.buchholzmedgroup.com/new_content/Journal%20Articles/Physical%20Exercise%20in%20Cancer%20Patients.DL.pdf
Cheryl L. Rock, PhD, RD, Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, PhD, RD, Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, Kerry S. Courneya, PhD, Anna L. Schwartz, FNP, PhD, FAAN, Elisa V. Bandera, MD, PhD, Kathryn K. Hamilton, MA, RD, CSO, CDN, Barbara Grant, MS, RD, CSO, LD, Marji McCullough, ScD, RD, Tim Byers, MD, MPH, Ted Gansler, MD, MBA, MPH, "Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors," CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 62 (2012): 242-274, DOI: 10.1002/cncr.27433. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.27433/pdf
National Cancer Institute, "Physical Activity and Cancer," July 22, 2009, accessed February 14, 2014. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/physicalactivity
Zosia Chustecka, "AACR 2009: Oncologists Should Recommend Exercise, But Not Supplements," Medscape Medical News, April 23, 2009, accessed February 14, 2014. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/701851
The Link Between Shift Work and Cancer Risk
Does Alcohol Increase Your Risk of Cancer?
Skin Cancer: Researching How It Spreads so It Can Be Stopped
Gear up for Warm Weather Workouts
Enlarged Prostate and Transurethral Microwave Therapy
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Explore Original Articles About...
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Hotter Temperatures Linked To Kidney Stones
- 2. Summer Bug Bites: What to Look For
- 3. Skin Health Advice with Dr. Kenneth Beer
- 4. Summer Safety Tips That Every Parent Needs To Know
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.