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Cancer patients need effective exercise prescriptions

Published : Oct 17, 2019, 1:15 pm IST
Updated : Oct 17, 2019, 1:15 pm IST

Exercise to be prescribed like medicine to cancer patients: Study.

It's important to identify that cancer patients need special attention when it comes to exercising. (Photo: Representational/ Pexels)
 It's important to identify that cancer patients need special attention when it comes to exercising. (Photo: Representational/ Pexels)

Washington: Exercise not only treats and prevents many forms of heart disease but is also highly beneficial for the people living with and beyond cancer, suggests a study. To spread the message, an initiative called Moving Through Cancer - led by Kathryn Schmitz, professor of public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine, and an international team of health practitioners and researchers - has been initiated.

In a paper published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, Schmitz and her fellow researchers outline new exercise recommendations for people living with and beyond cancer. With more than 43 million cancer survivors worldwide, we have a growing need to address the unique health issues facing people living with and beyond cancer and better understand how exercise may help prevent and control cancer," said Schmitz, who is also a member of the Penn State Cancer Institute.

"This esteemed, multidisciplinary group of leaders at the forefront of exercise oncology aimed to translate the latest scientific evidence into practical recommendations for clinicians and the public and to create global impact through a unified voice," added Schmitz.

According to the researchers, exercise is important for cancer prevention and can lower the risk of developing colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, bladder, oesophagus and stomach cancers. Exercise during and after cancer treatment can help improve fatigue, anxiety, depression, physical function, and quality of life, and can also help improve survival after a breast, colon or prostate cancer diagnosis.

Depending on the patient's activity levels and abilities, the researchers generally recommend 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise three times a week and 20 to 30 minutes of resistance exercise twice a week. But, Schmitz said health care professionals can also customise exercise prescriptions to individual patients.

"Through our research, we've reached a point where we can give specific FITT exercise prescriptions - which means frequency, intensity, time and type - for specific outcomes like quality of life, fatigue, pain, and others," Schmitz said. "For example, if we're seeing a head and neck cancer patient with a specific set of symptoms, we could give them an exercise prescription personalised to them."

The recommendations are one result of a roundtable of experts formed by Schmitz and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) to review the latest scientific evidence and offer recommendations about the benefits of exercise for prevention, treatment, recovery and improved survival for people living with and beyond cancer.

Schmitz said the second piece of the initiative is resources and programs to help get people with and beyond cancer moving. The Moving Through Cancer website has an exercise program registry that can help patients, families, health care providers and others find programs near them.

The final piece is policy, Schmitz said, which could be used to increase the likelihood that health care professionals will talk to their patients about exercise and that patients will be adequately referred to as they move through cancer.

Tags: cancer, exercise