Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States. One in every two men will get cancer in their lifetime.  For women, it is 1in 3. Obesity, physical activity, and poor nutrition are major risk factors for causing cancer.  In fact, these factors are second only to tobacco in risk factors.

Amazing Cancer Treatment

Your first thought is probably “how can physical therapy possibly help someone suffering from cancer?” The surprising answer is that physical therapy has the ability to significantly assist those battling with cancer in a variety of fashions. Physical Therapy can help everything from the effects of nausea and vomiting to improving your chances of survival following the diagnosis of cancer. While these claims may seem surprising, there is a significant amount of research to support these statements.

Life Change

The diagnosis of cancer is a life altering experience.  Your world is suddenly turned upside down.  Things and circumstances in your life that previously seemed important are now relegated to inconsequential status.  Your primary focus is now directed at beating this terrible disease.

Secret Weapon

Would you be surprised to learn that there is a simple, inexpensive, and effective weapon to help you in your battle against cancer?  Would you be interested to learn of a research-based treatment that can help improve your odds of surviving cancer by as much as 60 to 70%?  What if you learned that this treatment had no side effects and in fact would help improve your quality of life and would even reduce the effects of some of the traditional cancer treatment side effects?  Would you be shocked to learn the simple answer is exercise?

  • Research: a study of 933 breast cancer patients showed that moderate intensity physical activity reduced the risk for death by 67% in women who remained active two years after diagnosis.

 Sound to Good to be True?

There is a substantial amount of research that has shown exercise to be a highly effective treatment against cancer.  Exercise has been shown to significantly reduce mortality rates ( 60 to 70%) in those already diagnosed with cancer and has been shown to be a significant factor in preventing the original occurrence of cancer ( by up to 50%).   Studies have shown that exercise is as effective as chemotherapy and radiation in the treatment of cancer. Sadly, research also shows that the typical cancer patient is not meeting the physical activity recommendations proposed for even the general adult population.

  • Research: studies have suggested that exercise reduces the risk for breast cancer mortality by 40 to 55% which is as much a standard treatments.

When Should I Start Exercising?

As soon as you can physically tolerate exercise (even a low-level exercise) you should begin your program.   Whether you are trying to prevent the onset of cancer or have already been diagnosed with cancer, exercise can have an immediate beneficial effect.

What If I am Undergoing Chemotherapy?

There is no need to hold off starting an exercise program because you’re undergoing cancer treatment.  In fact, researcher has shown that exercise is capable of decreasing the nausea and fatigue often associated with chemotherapy.  Exercise can also help to prevent muscle wasting and weakness that often accompanies chemotherapy.

  • Research: regular, moderately intensive cardiovascular exercise may reduce the fatigue and nausea associated with chemotherapy treatment.
  • Research: patients suffering from cancer treatment related fatigue, which can last for up to 15 years following treatment, can benefit from a prescribed exercise regime.  Prescribed exercise can help overcome, manage, or reduce fatigue after, or even during, chemotherapy and radiation.

What if I Just Had Surgery?

Following a surgical procedure, it is likely that the last thing you’re thinking about is exercise.  This can be a mistake.  Not only will exercise prevent weakness and loss of function but exercise has been shown to decrease pain following surgical procedures for cancer.

* Exercise, following surgery, should be designed by a physical therapist and should not start without your physician’s approval.

  • Research:  progressive resistance exercise training following surgery helps reduce upper extremity pain and dysfunction in certain head and neck cancer survivors.
  • Research: the addition of progressive resistance exercise training to standard physical therapy should be considered in the rehabilitation of head and neck cancer survivors.

Quality of Life

Want more motivation to begin exercising? Consider the fact that research has shown that exercise will do more than just improve your health and improve your odds of surviving cancer. Exercise will  improve your quality of life.  Exercise has been shown to improve mood and reduce depression.  It will improve your strength and allow you to regain functional abilities lost due to weakness.

  • Research:  being physically active in a supervised exercise program provided increased perceived benefits and quality of life for cancer survivors over six months.

What Type of Exercise Should I Perform?

The ideal exercise program should involve a combination of both resistance/weight training and aerobic conditioning.  Research has shown benefits for both types of exercise, individually.  The combination, however, of both types of exercise have been shown to deliver superior results.

How Often Should I Exercise?

At first, you may be only able to exercise for short periods of time.  But as the effects of chemotherapy and radiation diminish you should be able to tolerate more and more activity.  The program listed below is what you should aspire to perform. Do not expect to achieve this level immediately.

Maximum benefits can be received from exercise in as little as three days a week. Cardiovascular training needs to be performed for a minimum of 20 continuous minutes, while maintaining your heart rate within a specific training range.  Resistance training can be performed three days per week and completed in 30 to 40 minutes.  With proper scheduling, a comprehensive exercise routine can easily be for performed in one hour per day, three days per week.

Where Can I Go For Help Exercising?

Starting a new exercise program can be a daunting task.  It is made even more daunting and confusing when cancer treatments and surgical procedures are added.  We understand your special needs and can individually designed an exercise program to help you improve your health and achieve your goals.  Our cancer program is designed to be quick and efficient.  Because we are physical therapists we understand postsurgical complications and work to ensure that your program is safe.

Will Insurance Reimburse an Exercise Program?

Our program at Fast Track Fitness and Physical Therapy is billed as a physical therapy procedure.  It is typically reimbursed by most insurances.  If you have Medicare or private insurance, our program will likely be covered.

Time to Fight

Do not delay.  The time to start exercising is now. the research is clear that exercise can help save your life.  The fight against cancer is not easy but at least exercise provides you with a significant weapon in the battle.

  • Research: In a study of 933 breast cancer patients, it was shown that moderate intensity physical activity reduced the risk for death by 67% in women who remained active for two years after diagnosis. (Journal kept clinical Oncology, 2008)
  • Research: Regular vigorous exercise can slow the progression of prostate cancer. (Archives of Internal Medicine, 2005)
  • Research: Regular, moderately intensive cardiovascular exercise may reduce the fatigue and nausea associated with chemotherapy treatment in women with breast cancer. (Oncology Nursing Society, 2007)
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