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Exercise and Cancer

by Hope Stafford, Certified Personal Trainer

When you think about keeping your body healthy, exercise is one of the best ways to maintain proper function. Exercise is very important in the prevention of cancer and reducing the risk of cancer recurrence. The American Cancer Society recommends 20 minutes per day of moderate intensity exercise, four days a week. There has been substantial evidence that several types of cancer have a reduced risk with exercise such as breast, prostate, colon, lung, cervical and uterine cancer. Many studies have shown that the more you exercise, the lower your risk of premature death due to cancer.

There are a lot of theories about what causes cancer, and many reasons are still unknown. Heredity, chemicals (like in cigarettes, food, etc.), radiation, viruses or bacteria, and obesity are some risk factors that contribute.

One of the most common side effects of cancer is fatigue. The causes can vary but may be due to the actual disease itself, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, low blood sugar, lack of sleep, pain, stress and poor appetite. Mental fatigue also is a side effect. Loss of focus, concentration and memory problems are all common. Ways to help conserve energy are to reduce time constraint and pressures, prioritize and conserve energy for the most important tasks, break large tasks into smaller, doable tasks, take shorts naps and breaks to restore energy, and try to eat a healthy diet. Also doing something enjoyable every day is important. This can include gardening, walking, playing with kids or pets, etc. Anything that takes you away from normal everyday To Do’s.

The reason fatigue can be so extreme during treatment is that the body uses a lot of energy to heal itself and fight the cancer, and there is not much left for all the other tasks. During chemotherapy, the bone marrows ability to make red blood cells is diminished, and red blood cells are necessary to transport oxygen throughout the body to give all the tissue energy.

There are some factors of exercise that are being linked to lowering the risk of cancer such as, maintenance of body weight and fat, low levels of abdominal fat, regulation of blood sugar levels, suppression of prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances released in greater quantities by tumor cells, improved immune function, and decreased depression/anxiety which can improve immune functions as well as psychological functions.

People who are undergoing treatment or are in remission may have modifications that need to be made to their exercise routines, for example lymphedema is a risk for people who have had lymph nodes removed.

Exercise serves so many benefits to people who have or have had cancer, and really decrease the chance of cancer returning. Talk to a cancer exercise certified trainer today.