Exercise is a wonderfully, dynamic tool that transforms the health of everyone and everything it touches, no matter how much (or how little) you use it. Anything and everything from a five-minute walk in the park that improves your state of mind to short-term, high-intensity interval training contributes to the greater good: A healthier life.
In light of the growing number of recent studies that have proven the value of exercise for cancer patients, a 13-member panel, led by associate professor Dr. Kathryn Schmitz of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has developed national guidelines to keep patients moving during and after their treatments.
Unfortunately, there's a dire exercise gap at work here that has everything to do with attitudes of doctors, not patients, says Dr. Schmitz. "We have to get doctors past the ideas that exercise is harmful to their cancer patients. There is still a prevailing attitude out there that patients shouldn't push themselves during treatment, but our message -- avoid inactivity -- is essential."
The panel suggests cancer survivors and patients strive to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, the same recommended time allotment for everyone else. A reason some doctors may be hesitant about making such recommendations: An exercise program should be tailored to the individual patient's needs, accounting for the diagnosis, fitness level and variables specific to their disease that could affect their safety.
For example, a recent study led by Dr. Schmitz (published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine) demonstrated the value of gradual, supervised weight training for survivors of breast cancer-related lymphedema.
You'll also want to watch this short video interview with Dr. Schmitz discussing her Physical Activity and Lymphedema study at a research conference convened by the American Institute for Cancer Research late last year.
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