Exercise Gains Traction as a Way to Fight Cancer – WebMD

Exercise Gains Traction as a Way to Fight Cancer – WebMD

“I don’t believe that exercise alone can cure you of cancer, but I do believe that it can be very helpful,” he says.

By using exercise to help cancer patients build up bigger armies of defender cells, Gustafson believes it may be possible to make powerful immunotherapy treatments work better. Those treatments “teach” a patient’s own immune cells to attack tumors.

It’s also well-known that body fat makes the hormone estrogen, which can cause some forms of breast cancer, says Betsy O’Donnell, MD, director of the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Exercise, along with cutting calories, helps reduce body fat, a concern for many breast cancer patients, who often gain weight during treatment.

“Weight gain can have major implications for self-esteem and quality of life, too,” says O’Donnell.

At her clinic, patients work with a nutritionist, behavioral psychologist, and other specialists, in addition to getting help with improving their physical fitness.

Research shows that aerobic exercise (such as walking, jogging, or cycling) and strength training (such as lifting weights or using resistance bands) can benefit cancer patients.

An oft-cited 2007 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology involving 242 women with breast cancer who were about to begin chemotherapy found that aerobic exercise improved patients’ self-esteem and reduced body fat, while resistance training helped build muscle and made them more likely to finish their treatment.

Need for Personal Programs

Not all cancer survivors are eager to hit the gym during or soon after the rigors of treatment, so tailoring the intensity of an exercise prescription to each patient is essential, says O’Donnell.

Walking is perhaps the most popular option many of her patients choose, particularly since many people have been avoiding gyms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She recommends building up to at least 150 minutes of walking per week, maintaining a pace that allows you to talk, but not sing.

And if walking isn’t for you, O’Donnell says, some of her patients instead dance, learn tai chi, or find some other form of purposeful movement that they enjoy.

Source: https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20211210/exercise-treatment-for-cancer