Nicola Naish's Weekly Exercise and Nutrition Tips - 11th May

If you have been recently diagnosed with cancer or are undergoing treatment, physical activity should really be part of your regime. Macmillan have been instrumental in leading the research into the positive effects that exercise can play. Evidence from systemic reviews of randomised controlled trials has shown that exercise can improve the decline in physical function without increasing tiredness during cancer treatment. In fact, the research demonstrated that those who exercised regularly had 40% to 50% less fatigue than their counterparts who were not exercising.

I have first-hand "proof" of this as I walked everyday throughout my treatment and genuinely felt energised by the right amount of walking.  As mentioned before, "getting out there" can improve aspects of psychological wellbeing too, both during and after cancer treatment. For me it kept me in the loop so to speak, keeping in touch with the ordinary and mundane aspects of life.

The studies went even further to find physical activity can reduce the risk of cancer coming back and of dying during or after cancer treatment. In fact, the review found that just 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week resulted in a reduction in risk of death in women with breast cancer. How fantastic is this when the beneficial act they are referring to is both free (or very cheap) and without side effects! It obviously would be foolhardy to take up squash or start sprinting midway through cancer treatment, but brisk walking and swimming is perfect.

Engaging in regular exercise increases muscle strength, joint flexibility and general conditioning.... all of which are invariably impaired by either cancer or the treatment.  I'd recommend Pilates classes, Tai Chi or yoga. Brisk walking promotes the osteoblasts in your long bones to build new bone matter, and improves your cardiovascular system at the same time!

Studies also found a reduction in risk of prostate cancer progression and death associated with three hours moderate physical activity per week. Obviously there are some health issues specific to cancer patients that should be taken in to consideration. For example, I wouldn't recommend cycling, either static or regular cycling, straight after prostate or rectal cancer. Likewise, those of you that have had a node clearance should be aware of lymphoedema and if you want to go to a gym build up the resistance of weights very gradually to avoid swelling.

Finally, exercise helps control weight - a crucial factor as we now know that gaining weight during and after treatment raises the risk of cancer recurrence, especially in breast, colon and prostate cancers.

So, grab the dog, or a friend and get out walking! Find out what gentle classes they have on at the local community centre. I bet you'll end up inspiring those without cancer to get up and get active!

Whatever you choose, take it easy at first and show that cancer what you're made of!!!

Have fun!

Nic

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