Been Diagnosed With Cancer – When Do You Start To Exercise?

So you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and you want me to exercise?!So you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and you want me to exercise?! I heard this frequently when I approached ovarian cancer patients in chemotherapy clinics to participate in my research. I would sometimes sit for hours in the waiting rooms just to wait for a two minute conversation with a patient, in the hope to assist them to become more active.

I have no doubt that being diagnosed with cancer and having treatment is one of the most challenging things a person can ever go through, and without having cancer myself, i cannot act like I know what they are going through. However, what I do know – an emerging field of exercise oncology – the majority of patients, families and a lot of doctors do not know about. More and more support has been given by oncologists to tell their patients to be active and get moving, when in the past they were wrapped in cotton wool and told to rest. In fact, this has been shown in prospective studies for patients when asked how much they exercised, the ones who engaged in more, lived for longer.

Now going back to the original theme of when do you start to exercise? before or after surgery? during chemo? after chemo?

The answer is now.

Think of it this way – the healthier your body is from being active, the better you will recover from surgery, the stronger you will be during chemo and the more likely you will be back and feeling normal after treatment.

I’ve spoken with oncologists from around Australia and the world and I have told them exactly that. There have been studies for patients before surgery, during chemo and radiotherapy and after treatment, all showing benefits from increased aerobic activity (walking, cycling, aqua aerobics etc) and resistance training (weights).

The time to be active is now.

  1. A 5 minute walk around the block a day to start your regime.
  2. Next week aim at 10 minutes a day.
  3. The week after aim at 15 minutes.
  4. Before you know it, you have a larger endurance capacity, more energy and vitality again.
  5. Believe you can do it, because you can.

Please feel free to pass this blog onto any cancer survivor.

David Mizrahi About David Mizrahi: David currently works as a Clinical Research Associate at The Sydney Children’s Hospital. David is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and received a Master of Science from the University of New South Wales.

Advice For Contacting David: Interested in consulting with oncology patients, as well as setting up exercise-based programs in hospitals and oncology clinics. Contact me for more information – E: d.mizrahi@unsw.edu.au or M: 0404177629.

The Benefits of Exercise During Radiotherapy for Breast Cancer

Benefits of Exercising During Radiotherapy for Breast CancerBy: David Mizrahi, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, specializing in exercise during chemotherapy and ovarian cancer.

Common side-effects of radiotherapy (RT) are fatigue, pain, shoulder instability, cardiac damage and reduced quality of life. The majority of these side effects will be improved by engaging in aerobic physical activity. An article published in 2008 by Ji Hyi Hwang in South Korea worked with breast cancer patients after surgery, who were about to commence RT.

Protocol:

  • Exercise consisted of 3x 50 minute sessions a week for 5 weeks
  • Each 50 minute session consisted of:
  • 10 minute warm up
  • 30 minutes exercise (treadmill walking, cycling, strength exercises, shoulder stretching)
  • 10 minute cool down (relaxation)

The main results were as follows:

Exercise RT

On each figure, the left bars indicate the non-exercising control groups – who experienced reduced quality of life, increased fatigue and worse pain

The right bars indicate the exercising group – who experienced IMPROVED quality of life, IMPROVED fatigue and HIGHER pain threshold. This is a two-fold swing right here. Furthermore, the exercising group had better upper arm flexibility – which is vital to be able to continue doing normal activities at home – driving, washing, going to shops, lifting things etc!

Here is the link below to the article:

http://synapse.koreamed.org/Synapse/Data/PDFData/0069YMJ/ymj-49-443.pdf

If you or somebody you know is undergoing or about to undergo radiotherapy, provide support, ask them to go for a walk with you. Go at their pace, doesn’t matter how fast, it is better than nothing. Once confident and building endurance, then you can start to go faster and you will start embracing some of the great benefits. Walking is safe and does not require supervision. If you wish to have a weights program prescribed to you, consider speaking with your physiotherapist, or certified exercise physiologist.

As always, please comment, ask questions, go for a walk, share this blog with a friend or family member, follow me and stay positive.

Additional Research:
Effects of exercise on breast cancer patients and survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Effects of Supervised Exercise Therapy in Patients Receiving Radiotherapy for Breast Cancer
Suggested Reading:
Stretching For Cancer Survivors

David Mizrahi About David Mizrahi: David currently works as a Clinical Research Associate at The Sydney Children’s Hospital. David is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and received a Master of Science from the University of New South Wales.

Advice For Contacting David: Interested in consulting with oncology patients, as well as setting up exercise-based programs in hospitals and oncology clinics. Contact me for more information – E: d.mizrahi@unsw.edu.au or M: 0404177629.

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