Exercise and Cancer

Do you have Questions about Exercise and Cancer? A Chartered Physiotherapist will tell you what you need to know.

If you have had cancer or are currently undergoing treatment for cancer, your Chartered Physiotherapist has some information you might like to hear; According to research, exercising during and after cancer treatment shows an improvement in fitness, strength, quality of life, fatigue, anxiety and self-esteem in those treated for cancer. In addition, the use of exercise (or an active lifestyle) has been shown to reduce the risk of developing breast, womb and colon cancers. The American College of Sports Medicine summarise their recommendations for Cancer Survivors in two words, ‘avoid inactivity’. This applies to people with both existing disease and undergoing difficult treatments. The Irish National Activity Guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week for adults, including those who have had a diagnosis of cancer. See Physical Activity Pyramid here 

Now that we know it is safe and recommended for you to get going, why not set a goal to work on like the upcoming Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon?  If you have had a cancer diagnosis, you may have questions when starting your training and you can speak to your Chartered Physiotherapist about any of these.  As experts, they will take into account your diagnosis, treatment and side-effects, monitor your response to exercise and safely progress your programme to decrease the risk of injury.  Any risks you might be concerned about can also be discussed and addressed.

A Chartered Physiotherapist has answered some common questions cancer sufferers have regarding exercise:

1. I’m having treatment for cancer. How can I do 150 minutes per week?

Shorter bouts of activity (more than 10 minutes) count towards the weekly 150 minutes. As such, 3 sessions of 10 minutes per day for 5 days = your 150 minutes. If you really cannot do 150 minutes per week, bear in mind that any activity at all is better than none, so trying to do some activity each day will not only be a starting point but will benefit you greatly. Remember the goal is to avoid inactivity.

2. What is moderate intensity?

You are exercising at a moderate intensity when your heart and breathing rates increase slightly, but you could still carry on a conversation. You may also feel warmer or sweat slightly.

3. I haven’t exercised for years. Where do I start?

You can avoid inactivity by trying to continue with normal activities, even if you feel tired, such as helping with meal preparation or household chores. Try to avoid long periods of sitting such as prolonged television viewing or bed rest.

Aerobic activities include walking, swimming, aqua-aerobics, cycling, dancing, gardening and household cleaning.

Check out www.getirelandactive.ie for more suggestions.

4. I’m doing 150 minutes per week. How do I progress my training?

Gradually, add strengthening and endurance exercises or increase the distance, pace or duration of your exercise as your fitness improves, or, vary the type of activity that you are doing.

Should you have any other questions regarding exercise and cancer, be sure to contact a Chartered Physiotherapist and let them help you get started.

Angela Ryan, Chartered Physiotherapists