The Importance of Physical Activity in Cancer Survivorship

Cancer Recovery and Physical Activiity
Print icon
By Gretchin Bade
Program Director of Oncology
Hartford Hospital Rehabilitation Network

At least 20 studies of people with breast, colorectal, prostate and ovarian cancer have suggested that physically active cancer survivors have a lower risk of cancer recurrence and improved survival compared to survivors who are inactive.

Exercise also has been shown to decrease the side effects of cancer treatments and can aid in recovery following chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Physical activity is also associated with improved weight management and with a lower risk of several chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which are common conditions found in people who have survived cancer. Physical activity has also been linked to improvements in psychological health outcomes for cancer survivors, in reducing cancer-related fatigue and increasing muscle strength that aids in decreased fall risk and ultimately improved ability to perform daily activities.

According to the American Cancer Society, people treated for cancer in the past were often told by their healthcare team to rest and to decrease their physical activity. Newer research has shown that exercise is not only safe during cancer treatment, but that it also can improve your daily function and your quality of life.

Too much rest can cause loss of body function, decreased flexibility and muscle weakness. Many cancer care teams are therefore recommending that their patients be as physically active as possible during cancer treatment and continue into survivorship.

Your goals of an exercise program will vary depending on where you are in your cancer journey.  During treatment it is important to remain physically active, but each person’s exercise program should be based on what is safe and works best for them. The goal is to stay as active as possible but to be aware of safety concerns and to modify your program accordingly. Be sure to get your doctor’s approval before beginning an exercise program. You may also benefit from working with a physical or occupational therapist, an exercise physiologist, or a cancer exercise specialist. Healthcare professionals who are specially trained in cancer care can put together an exercise program that is safe and meets your needs.

After treatment some of the side effects will resolve quickly but some can last longer and may even emerge later. You should slowly increase your exercise time and intensity but need to listen to your body and pace yourself as needed. The American Cancer Society recommends moderate physical activity which is defined as an activity that takes as much effort as a brisk walk.

Physical activity continues to be important after cancer treatment when you are disease-free or stable. The American Cancer Society recommends that cancer survivors be sure to follow these guidelines:

• Participate in regular physical activity.
• Avoid inactivity and return to normal daily activities as soon as you can after diagnosis.
• Work up to exercising at least 150 minutes per week (moderate physical activity), with exercise at least 5 days per week.
• Strength training exercises at least two days per week (begin with a supervised program).

Remember to speak with your healthcare team regarding the importance of participating in daily physical activity as they can make an appropriate referral. Be patient as you may need to exercise less intensely and progress your workout at a slower rate than someone who hasn’t had cancer. In time you will find the right balance and be able to make physical activity part of your lifestyle.

For more information on the Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network, click here.

 


What's New

Colorectal Cancer

Rebuilding Your Life After Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis

Dr. Gerard Fumo Physician Lead, Hartford HealthCare Gastrointestinal Disease Management Team Colorectal cancer, a potentially lethal disease, is one of the most preventable cancers because doctors can remove precancerous growths during a colonoscopy. In part, because of the advances in screening, which leads to detection and removal of early cancers,...


Windham Hospital Foundation to Host Cancer Survivors Day Luncheon June 8

Windham Hospital’s Annual Cancer Survivors Day Luncheon is Saturday June 8,Noon to 2 pm in the Betty Tipton Room at Eastern Connecticut State University, 5 Charter Oak Road, Willimantic. The event, hosted by the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at Windham Hospital and the Windham Hospital Foundation, will include several guest speakers, a buffet and a...

Breast Screening

Breast Surgeons Group: Start Routine Screening at Age 40

If age is just a number, why is the year a woman should start having annual mammograms so important – and so controversial? Most recently, the American Society of Breast Surgeons (ASBrS) issued new guidelines advising women at average risk of breast cancer to begin annual mammograms at 40, which...

Cure Award

Cancer Institute’s Abbi Bruce an Extraordinary Healer Award Finalist

Abbi Bruce, director of the Hartford Region of the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, has been recognized as a finalist for the CURE 2019 Extraordinary Healer Award. This is a distinguished national award presented at the Oncology Nursing Society annual conference to honor oncology nurses who have made great strides in...

Cancer and Bacteria

Study Investigates Bacteria’s Role in Fighting Cancer

Millions of bacteria are inside or on the surface of our bodies at any one time and are necessary for good health because they help us digest foods and keep harmful bacteria at bay. More recently, we have learned that they also modulate the strength of our immune system, which...


Upcoming Classes and Events

Acupuncture for Cancer Weekly, Fridays at 10am-2pm in Willimantic Appointments and walk-ins welcome. To register, call 860.455.6620 Art for Healing Retreat: A Day Away May 18 from 8:30am-4:30pm in New Britain – $25 fee To register, call 1.855.HHC.HERE or register online Art Therapy Support Group May 23, June 13 & 27,...