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Monday, November 3, 2014

12 Pearls of Wisdom from a Recent Exercise and Cancer Conference

You CAN exercise while undergoing  cancer treatment
You know someone and so do I whose life has been dramatically cut short by cancer. I’ll make this short: protocols to prevent cancer or cancer recurrence often give short shift to exercise.

“We just don’t have time to discuss it,” doctors and specialists candidly tell me. That’s unfortunate. The American Cancer Society very conservatively recommends 20 minutes of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking most days. That’s less time every week to reduce cancer risk or its complications than watching a sappy Lifetime Movie of the Week!

“More and smarter” becomes my mantra here. Walking provides a good foundation, but I also want to see patients incorporate burst training and weight resistance. I ambitiously want
to see an intelligently designed exercise program incorporated into every patient’s protocol.

I realize every person’s circumstance is different. If you’re a 60-something sedentary male with prostate cancer, even 20 minutes of brisk walking five times a week can become life changing.
If you already maintain an exercise plan, sustaining it as you fight cancer could have dramatic results. During the many years I’ve been a fitness coach, I’ve watched numerous men and women of all ages become stronger, healthier, and more resilient lifting relatively heavy. Again, it depends on where you are but also where you want to be.

As someone who lost a father to cancer, I’ve been fascinated ever since at the connection between exercise and cancer. That interest took a new level recently when I attended a weekend conference.
Now, I knew studies showed increasing physical activity could help lower rates of certain cancers. What I learned over that weekend could fill a book, and I’ve provided 12 pearls here from those lectures.

Maybe you’re currently struggling with cancer. Perhaps you’re a cancer survivor, or your dad or brother or someone you love deeply is currently fighting a cancer battle. You’ve probably lost someone important in your life to cancer, and you’re determined to help someone currently battling cancer improve her quality of life.

Regardless, I’ve designed these incredibly practical, inspirational take-homes to help you better design an exercise plan to reduce your cancer risk or its complications. They prove just how crucial exercise can become to not only survive cancer but also flourish.

1.  Men with cancer who walked one hour each week had 15 – 20 percent lower death rates compared to sedentary men. That’s according to a large-scale study of 17,148 Harvard alumni. Stop and think about that: a simple one-hour investment could reduce cancer death up to 20 percent. If a drug did that, it would make headlines news. 

2. Men who exercised four hours every week lowered cancer mortality an astonishing 35 percent. This comes from the same large-scale cancer study. That’s four hours, or about 30 minutes every day, of brisk walking. Again: 35 percent. In my book, that’s astounding. Can you imagine what those numbers would look like combining brisk walking with weight training?

3. Researchers in this study concluded the more exercise you get, the lower your risk for premature death from cancer or heart disease. Again, I caution here that more does not mean better. Duration matters, but you receive far more benefits hitting the weight rack for 20 minutes than riding, I mean walking, the elliptical machine for an hour.

4. Women who incorporate moderate, recreational exercise have reduced risk of breast, uterine, cervical, and ovarian cancers. The take-home here is to have fun. Cancer patients have enough stress. Dreading a workout is the last thing you need to juggle. Join a group workout, hit the park with your bestie, take a cool new class, but just get moving period. If you enjoy it and it remains challenging, you’re far more likely to stick with it. It goes without saying that if you’re currently undergoing treatment, you will have to modify your workout.

5. Findings from one study suggest that women engaged in moderate to high levels of physical activity may have a reduced risk of endometrial cancer. Weight resistance and burst training makes the ideal way to get those levels. Most cancer patients I’ve met are incredibly time-crunched. With the right strategy, you can knock out an appropriate, immune-boosting, endorphin-raising workout in just 30 minutes.

6. Researchers aren’t sure exactly how exercise benefits certain cancers. We’re learning though. Most likely, exercise indirectly reduces cancer through numerous angles such as obesity, speeding up metabolism, and boosting immunity. Frequent exercisers are also less likely to smoke or abuse alcohol. What ultimately matters is that exercise does benefit cancer.

7. A statistical analysis of 24 studies found starting or maintaining an exercise program after being diagnosed with cancer provides wide-ranging benefits. Among them include strength, self-esteem, increased physical and mental stamina, decreased pain levels, improved treatment tolerances, improved sleep, and decreased depression.

8. Trainers: tailor your workouts for every cancer patient. Modify the specific exercise dose – duration, intensity, and duration – according to type of cancer, treatment, and the individual. Any good trainer knows compliance but also benefits improve when they custom-design an exercise protocol to meet an individual’s needs, abilities, limitations, and skill set.

9. After cancer surgery, exercise can help redevelop and maintain pre-surgery fitness and strength levels. Some patients were even able to create new levels of strength and fitness after surgery. Nice.

10.  Many clients may still be suffering from fatigue long after their treatment has ended. Cardiovascular training, biking, walking, or running produce feel-good, energy-boosting endorphins. I’d like to see some weight resistance in there, and recommend you make your cardio exercise burst training-if you feel up to it. If you’ve recovered from treatment, sprint, don’t run; alternate fast-paced walking with regularly paced walking; that sort of thing.

11.   A regular cardiovascular exercise program can reverse the detrimental affects of chemotherapy and radiation on the heart and lungs. Both can be strengthened through a cardiovascular training program. Researchers specifically mentioned swimming to get those benefits.

12.  What researchers concluded with absolute certainty after years of working with cancer survivors. Most cancer issues – recovering from chemo, boost immunity, reducing your recurrence risk, etcetera – could be dramatically improved upon, if not entirely corrected, through the proper combination of stretching and strengthening. If you take home just one point, make it this one.

I've heard so many amazing stories and witnessed firsthand how an exercise plan can improve cancer prognosis. I've watched clients battle cancer and come out stronger. I want to hear your story. Have you or someone you love implemented exercise while battling cancer? Share yours below or on my Facebook fan page.

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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at© 2014 Jinifit, Inc.

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