In 2018, the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) issued formal guidelines strongly recommending exercise as part of all cancer treatment. Exercise as an adjunct to cancer treatment has been well-studied and associated with many benefits. Research has shown that exercise during cancer treatment can greatly improve quality of life, fitness, energy and strength, as well as decrease anxiety, depression and body mass index.
Studies have shown that exercise can help ease various effects of cancer and side effects of cancer treatment.
Lethargy and fatigue is common for people with cancer. Inactivity may lead to the loss of fitness and strength which can worsen fatigue, therefore, staying active with low-medium intensity exercise can help maintain fitness and hence reduce fatigue.
Common forms of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can lead to reduced red blood cell (RBC) and hemoglobin count (Hb). Studies have shown that moderate intensity aerobic exercise in combination with good nutrition can significantly increase levels of RBCs and Hb consequently leading to the reduced severity of chemotherapy-induced anemia.
Damage to the lymphatic system due to cancer and/or cancer treatment consisting of surgery and radiotherapy often leads to secondary lymphedema. Research indicates that starting an exercise program under supervision of a health professional early in cancer treatment is effective in reducing the risk of developing lymphedema. Furthermore, it has been studied that clinical exercises that focuses on spinal stabilization can contribute to trunk and diaphragmatic muscle contraction that then stimulates ductus thoracicus and abdominal lymph nodes leading to facilitation of lymphatic flow.
Loss of bone strength
Cancer and cancer treatment can have long-term effects on bone strength leading to higher risk of bone fractures. Weight-bearing aerobic and resistance has been shown to minimise bone density loss.
Exercise is essential in the management of the above physical consequences of cancer and its treatment. In addition to this, research has shown that exercise also assists people with cancer (re)discover strength and physical capabilities, take action and control, evoke positive self-perception, minimise negativity, and gain a sense of normalcy.
Overall, the collective management of both physical and psychological impacts of cancer and its treatment with exercise has been shown to increase the quality of life of people with cancer.
Although it is important to include exercise as part of cancer treatment, it is best to consult the appropriate health professional to assist with this.
At Complete Health we perform a thorough case history and physical examination that allows us to determine each individual’s physical abilities, health status and disease progression. As such, we are able to create a tailored, safe and effective exercise program for each of our clients.
By Dr. Phillip Le (Osteopath)
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