Exercise is highly beneficial to our health and wellbeing and is regarded as one of the best medicines for our body and our longevity.
Research has revealed that exercise can reduce the risk of some cancers and help prevent some types of cancer from recurring. Exercise is often embedded in cancer care as an adjunct therapy that also helps counteract the adverse effects of cancer treatment.
A recent study of melanoma patients revealed:
Physical activity can help you to:
Physical activity is defined as bodily movement and energy expenditure, whereas exercise is planned, structured, repetitive and has a purpose aimed at what you’re trying to achieve.
During treatment (as individually tolerated)
After treatment (as individually tolerated)
If you feel confident you can achieve more, don’t limit yourself to these recommendations. Remember, more exercise equals greater benefits for you and your body.
Lower skeletal muscle mass is associated with decreased oncology outcomes and higher levels of side effects to treatment.
Higher muscle mass reduces inflammation and increases immunity and helps boost immunotherapy treatments and greater survival outcomes.
The predominant side effect in melanoma patients is cancer-related fatigue, followed by weight gain and compromised sleep.
Exercise is one of the best medicines for side effects, including cancer-related fatigue. It has also been reported to help overcome nausea, loss of appetite, anaemia, depression and anxiety, weight changes and loss of muscle mass.
Fatigue – Many patients report feeling extreme tiredness, or fatigue, during or after cancer treatment.
It’s important to be aware of the deconditioning cycle, where treatment causes fatigue, so we reduce activity levels, deconditioning then occurs and fatigue increases, then the cycle continues. Even low intensity exercise can help stave off the deconditioning cycle.
Exercise helps overcome fatigue by releasing natural endorphins, a great antidote for cancer-related fatigue.
Lymphoedema – Regular exercise has been shown to lower the risk of developing lymphoedema or reducing the severity and symptoms of existing lymphoedema.
Your immunity – Our immune system can be compromised by some cancers and treatments. A low white blood cell count can lead to an increased risk of infection, so at this time, it’s important to avoid physical contact with other people and wipe clean any shared equipment before you use it.
Avoiding Anaemia – Another common side effect of treatment is low red blood cell and/or haemoglobin count. Through good nutrition and exercise, we can help avoid or improve anaemia. Low intensity exercise is recommended, however, if your count is very low, consult your doctor first.
Improving balance & coordination – If your balance of coordination has been compromised by treatment, it’s advisable to exercise with a training partner or coach, and avoid outdoor cycling, using a treadmill or lifting free weights on your own, as these activities require balance and/or coordination.
Always check with your treating medical team before commencing physical activity or an exercise program
It’s important to take precautions before starting a new exercise program – Talk to your treatment team first. If you’re overdoing exercise, indicators may include any abnormal symptoms such as pain, excessive breathlessness or dizziness, which indicate you need to pare back the intensity of the exercise. Beware of boom-bust behaviours, such as doing too much when you’re feeling good and not enough when you’re feeling poorly.
An exercise physiologist is a university qualified allied health professional who has the knowledge, skills and competencies to design, deliver and evaluate safe and effective exercise interventions. They embrace and use exercise as medicine to help manage disease and improve wellbeing.
An exercise physiologist can help you by:
Reference: Exercise webinar, 12 October 2021, presented by Travis Hall, Accredited Exercise Physiologist
Disclaimer: This information is general and does not take into account your objectives, health situation or individual needs. You should consider whether the advice is suitable for you and your personal circumstances. This information will give you a general idea of the options available to you, however, you’ll need to determine what is appropriate for you.