'Go home and rest' is old advice. It's outdated.
Last month Macmillan Cancer Support released the Move More report. They wanted to remind patients that exercise can help increase their chances of survival, often better than any drug can.
'...if physical exercise were a drug, it would be hitting the headlines.'
Macmillan claims that 'taking it easy' during treatment should no longer be the line given by doctors. It seems that exercise does not increase fatigue during treatment, but does increase energy.
The bigger and better benefit
People with cancer that exercise live longer than those that don't, and their cancers are less likely to come back compared to people who 'take it easy'.
Amazing. This is something I can do, no hospital machines or needles required.
For my cancer in particular I can reduce the chance of it coming back AND my dying from it by 50%. F-i-f-t-y p-e-r-c-e-n-t!
Imagine if your oncologist came to you and said 'We have a new medication, taking it means the chance of you seeing your 30th birthday will be 50% higher. Oh, and it will also improve your brain, circulation, muscle tone and cardiovascular system. There are no side effects. Do you want to try it?'
Of course you would.
Exercise during cancer treatment is not easy. The number of times my bag has misbehaved at the gym and the 15% (14 kg) of my body weight I lost while in hospital means I know this first hand. But I want to live as long as possible (that turns out to be quite a motivator) and so I exercise nearly every day.
Colorectal cancer is greedy
My cancer requires one of the highest exercise regimes to get the best results: 6 hours per week. That's 360 minutes a week, or 51 minutes a day. Sounds like a lot doesn't it?
To get my quota each day I try to combine exercise and my appointments (cancer patients have a lot of appointments). I ride my bicycle when going to see the hospital psychologist. I jog to my acupuncture sessions. I walk down to the juice bar to get my daily hit of liquid veg.
Count your METs
Research in this area uses a thing called the Metabolic Equivalent Task. MET equals 1 when you are sitting and resting. Doing an activity with an MET of 4 means you are using four times the energy and oxygen that you would if you were resting. A list of the activities and their METs is here.
18 METs per week appears to be the magic number for colorectal cancer. But it is dose-dependent, which means even if you do 5 METs you still get some benefit. 12 METs benefits you a little more. 18 METs and above gives you the most benefit, cutting the chances of recurrence, and that other nasty thing that we don't like to talk about, by up to 50%.
Links to the report can be found at: http://benbbrave.blogspot.com/2011/09/every-step-counts.html
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.