EXERCISE AND CANCER By Cord Prettyman, MPT (This is part one of a two-part series)
Every year, thousands of Coloradans make the New Year’s resolution to exercise and typically I’m on board to help my readers. Traditionally, in early January I write a series of columns touting the health benefits of regular exercise outlining the variables that need to be manipulated in a safe and effective exercise regime, such as frequency, duration and intensity.
This year, I’m going to leave my apparently healthy readers to fend for themselves. This year, I want to talk to a special group of people … those who have battled or are battling the beast.
The National Cancer Institute tells us that in 2016, approximately 1.7 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer and 595,690 will die from the disease. Daunting statistics to say the least, however, recent research has uncovered a potent new weapon in the battle against cancer … exercise.
The November-December issue of IDEA Fitness Journal (an intra-industry magazine for certified fitness professionals) offers an article by Mark P. Kelly, PhD, on research that is uncovering promising data on how physical activity helps the body heal and prevent this deadly disease. For over a decade, cancer research has repeatedly shown that exercise is a protective factor that can reduce the risk of getting many types of cancer with a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealing that physical activity lowers the risk of 13 types of cancer.
A report from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center states, “Multiple studies show that regular physical activity is linked to increased life expectancy after a diagnosis of cancer, in many cases by decreasing the risk of cancer recurrence.” It’s no longer a question of whether exercise helps with avoiding or recovering from cancer but rather how much works for what types of cancer.
There are three ways to look at battling cancer. For those who don’t have it, lowering risk is the primary goal. For those who’ve had it, successfully recovering and reducing the chances of a recurrence is of utmost importance.
And for those who are in the midst of the battle, priorities focus on getting rid of it and minimizing the harmful effects of both the disease and the treatment. Exercise has been shown to help with all three scenarios.
In a 2005 Harvard study, breast cancer patients who exercised at moderate intensities three to five hours per week lowered the odds of dying by half compared with sedentary patients. Even a little exercise improved patient’s odds, regardless of stage or diagnosis.
The only question that remains is how much exercise should one aim for? The amount or dosage (frequency, duration and intensity) is a delicate balance of getting enough to make a difference versus getting too much, which could suppress one’s immune system. The importance of balance is linked to the endocrine system and the body’s perception and reaction to exercise as stress.
Tune in next week for the skinny on just how exercise helps with battling the beast and what’s the appropriate dosage for what cancers.
Cord Prettyman is a certified Master Personal Trainer and owner of Absolute Workout Fitness and Post-Re-hab Studio in Woodland Park. He can be reached at 687-7437, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org through his website at www.cordprettyman.com.