While patients were previously told to rest during cancer treatment, the overwhelming body of evidence now shows that physical activity is safe and beneficial throughout cancer treatment and beyond. The World Health Organization also endorses physical activity for those with chronic conditions, including cancer.
Here are five ways physical activity could be beneficial to patients during and after cancer treatment.
1. It supports mental health
A cancer diagnosis can be extremely emotional, and patients may feel uncertainty and fear regarding their diagnosis and treatment. Research shows that many patients experience increased feelings of anxiety and depression, alongside reduced quality of life. This may occur just after diagnosis, during treatment and in some cases is experienced for years after the completion of treatment.
But many studies have shown that physical activity during and after cancer treatment can help manage these mental health struggles, alongside improving patients’ self-esteem and overall mood.
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking) two to three times a week combined with muscle strengthening (such as pilates or weight lifting) has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety and depression in people suffering with many different types of cancer, including breast, prostate, colorectal, gynaecological and lung cancer.
2. It may reduce feelings of fatigue
Fatigue is one of the most frequently reported side effects associated with cancer and its treatment, which can have a serious affect on a cancer patient’s daily life and their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.
Research shows regular physical activity can help reduce feelings of fatigue. Evidence suggests that moderate to vigorous-intensity activity which combines both aerobic and muscle strengthening activities two to three times a week is beneficial for reducing fatigue in those diagnosed with breast and prostate cancer.
Read the full article by Amanda Daley, Professor of Behavioural Medicine, and Kajal Gokal, Senior Research Associate in Behavioural Medicine, visit The Conversation.