If we think about the way that human beings evolved, taking in to consideration that we lived our lives through the eons, it really is just common sense that physical activity, movement, exercise or whatever we want to call it should be a fundamental part of how we live. As such, if you had of asked any Exercise Physiologist if there is a benefit to exercise in the management of cancer a month or more ago we would have said of course, and then listed a bunch of reasons as to why. To be fair, this was probably based more on what we know happens to the body during cancer and how exercise can help to combat many of those negative effects. But anecdotes and theories aren’t enough in our society, and that is fair enough.
So it was with tremendous pleasure, and some smug self-assuredness as well I’m sure, that we heard this week from the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia no less, that exercise should be made a mandatory part of all cancer management plans going forward. The position statement made it clear that;
- Exercise should be treated as an adjunct therapy that helps to counteract the adverse effects of cancer and its treatment
- All members of the cancer treatment and management team should promote physical activity and promote exercise in accordance with standard exercise recommendations
- Best practice cancer care should include referral to an Exercise Physiologist and/or Physiotherapist with experience in cancer care
These were some of the more general recommendations, though are very direct in their call to ensure that all cancer patients are being very strongly encouraged to exercise regularly and essentially means that exercise will form a part of all cancer management programs going forward. For Exercise Physiologists this is simply brilliant news and validates most of what we have been saying for as long as we have all been practitioners. Some of the more specific recommendations are;
- 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week
- 2-3 resistance training sessions per week that target the main muscle groups and joint actions
- All training programs should be specific to the individual and their current capacity, weaknesses and concerns
Research is starting to compound and now shows very clearly that exercise will help to attenuate cancer-related fatigue due to cancer treatments and therapies, helps to alleviate stress and anxiety related to the cancer, its treatment and effects. There is emerging evidence that is starting to show that exercise therapy before, during and after cancer treatment will decrease the severity of cancer-related side-effects and the development of other cancers. Finally, studies are starting to show that exercise in the management of cancer provides a protective effect against cancer recurrence, cancer-related mortality and all-cause mortality.
Following this, it is even more important now than ever that all Allied Health Practitioners work closely together to achieve the best patient outcomes, with exercise being one of the central therapies in all cancer management programs. More than ever Exercise Physiologists need to become more active in promoting our profession and encouraging anyone that we know to ensure that exercise forms a central part of their life. Because in many ways this position statement is not just about cancer management, it is about cancer prevention. The evidence is truly mounting, at every turn, to support the absolute necessity of exercise as a part of your life to treat and combat almost every negative health effect that we can think of! It is up to us to encourage people to get moving, whether they are currently symptom free or not.
Yours In Health!