ACSM Urges Cancer Survivors to Exercise

Published:  07/04/2013

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends cancer survivors try to exercise for two and a half hours per week. These guidelines advise cancer survivors to exercise more, even those who haven't yet finished their treatment.

Overall findings: exercise training were generally safe for cancer survivors and that every survivor should “avoid inactivity.”

Enough evidence was available to conclude that specific doses of aerobic, combined aerobic plus resistance training, and/or resistance training could improve common cancer-related health outcomes, including anxiety, depressive symptoms, fatigue, physical functioning, and health-related quality of life. 

Physical activity improves quality of life and relieves some cancer-related tiredness. More, it can help fend off a serious decline in physical function that can last long after therapy is finished.

Consider: In one year, a 45-year-old women who needs chemotherapy for her breast cancer may find herself with the fatter, weaker body type of a 55-year-old without exercise.

Scientists have long recommended that being overweight and sedentary increases the risk for various cancers. Among the nation's nearly 12 million cancer survivors, there are hints that people who are more active may lower risk of a recurrence. And like everyone who ages, the longer cancer survivors live, the higher their risk for heart disease that exercise definitely fights.

Patients still in treatment may not feel up to that much, the guidelines acknowledge, but should avoid inactivity on their good days.

People with cancer usually get less active as symptoms or treatments make them feel lousy. Plus, certain therapies can weaken muscles, bones, even the heart. Not that long ago, doctors advised taking it easy.

Not anymore: Be as active as you're able.  Even a little is beneficial, walk  the dog, play a little golf. You can feel more energy with the right exercise.

But anyone starting more vigorous activity for the first time or who has particular risks -- like the painful arm swelling called lymphedema that some breast cancer survivors experience -- may need more specialized exercise advice. They should discuss exercise with their oncologist.

The average fitness trainer doesn't know how to safely offer that special training. So look for a trainer with advanced certifications like I have such as Clinical Exercise Specialist or Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist from American Council on Exercise.  

CAMPBELL, KRISTIN L.1; WINTERS-STONE, KERRI M.2; WISKEMANN, JOACHIM3; MAY, ANNE M.4; SCHWARTZ, ANNA L.5; COURNEYA, KERRY S.6; ZUCKER, DAVID S.7; MATTHEWS, CHARLES E.8; LIGIBEL, JENNIFER A.9; GERBER, LYNN H.10,11; MORRIS, G. STEPHEN12; PATEL, ALPA V.13; HUE, TRISHA F.14; PERNA, FRANK M.15; SCHMITZ, KATHRYN H.16. Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors: Consensus Statement from International Multidisciplinary Roundtable. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 11 - p 2375-2390 doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002116

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