Exercise Improves Cancer Treatment

Regular exercise is a "wonder drug" for all cancer patients and survivors and may even prevent the recurrence of their disease, a new study suggests.

A British review of more than 60 studies carried out with the support of the charity Macmillan Cancer Support found that being active during cancer treatment does not worsen fatigue and has positive effects on mood and well being. “If physical exercise were a drug, it would be hitting the headlines,” oncologist Jane Maher said in a press conference.

In addition, physical activity and regular exercise after the end of the treatment reduces the impact of side effects caused by the disease or therapy, such as swelling around the arm, anxiety, depression, fatigue, impaired mobility and changes to weight.

"Long term, it is an effective way to help recover physical function, manage fatigue, improve quality of life and mental health, and control body weight," the researchers said.

The findings showed that breast cancer patients who take 150 minutes of exercise per week had a 40 percent lower risk of death or experiencing recurrence compared to those who were active for less than an hour a week.

However, a weekly six hours activity lowered the risk of relapse in Bowel cancer patients by 50 percent while men with prostate cancer who engaged in three hours exercise program per week managed to decrease their death rate by 30 percent.

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that the Department of Health's guideline of 150 minutes of moderate activity a week is appropriate for most cancer survivors if built up gradually. Moderate exercise includes very brisk walking, heavy cleaning such as washing windows, vacuuming and mopping; mowing the lawn, cycling and badminton.

“The evidence in our report, Move More, shows just how important physical activity is to the recovery process of cancer,” said Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support. “Yet very little attention to its benefits is given by health professionals or by those commissioning health services.”

"It is essential that physical activity services are available and 'prescribed' to all cancer patients,” he added. "Cancer patients would be shocked if they knew just how much of a benefit physical activity could have on their recovery and long-term health, in some cases reducing their chances of having to go through the grueling ordeal of treatment all over again."

Over 11 million Americans have cancer in the U.S. The American Cancer Society also recommends maintaining an active lifestyle to reduce cancer risk.