Using Physical Activity to Lower The Risk Of Cancer
World Cancer Day every February 4th is the global uniting initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). The aim is to raise awareness, improve education and catalyse personal, collective and government action, to reimagine a world where millions of preventable cancer deaths are saved and access to life-saving cancer treatment and care is equal for all. This year's World Cancer Day's theme, 'I Am and I Will', which is about you and your commitment to act. Through our positive actions, together we can reach the target of reducing the number of premature deaths from cancer and noncommunicable diseases by one third by 2030.
What is known about the relationship between physical activity and cancer? There is substantial evidence that higher levels of physical activity are linked to lower risks of several cancers and exercise is extremely beneficial for those recovering from cancer treatments.
There have been a number of large scale studies that show that physically active women have a lower risk of breast cancer than inactive women2. In a recent analysis of over 73 studies conducted across the world, there was a 25% average risk reduction amongst physically active women as compared to the least active women. This risk reduction is greatest in post-menopausal women2.
Physical activity has one of the strongest links to reduce the rate of colon cancer as compared to other cancers3. Australia has some of the highest rates of colon cancer and today 1 in 13 Australians will develop the disease4. Among both females and males, greater levels of physical activity lead to reduced numbers in those diagnosed with colon cancer. Men who are physically active have a 30-40% reduced risk of colon cancer and women have shown a 10-20% reduction5. Research has shown that moderate-high levels of exercise per week (>4hrs) has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer as well as improving survival rates6.
Moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise and resistance training is linked to a number of positive benefits for patients diagnosed with prostate cancer including, improved mental health, improved QOL, improved sexual function, decreased PSA levels, decreased fatigue and decreased depression7.
Physical activity is associated with a significantly decreased risk of not only these three cancers, but also endometrial cancers, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, kidney cancer, myeloid leukemia and cancers of the head and neck, bladder, and lung8.
Exercise lowers the risk of cancer in a number of ways. Firstly, exercise lowers the levels of hormones such as insulin and oestrogen which is shown to reduce the development and progression of cancers of the breast and colon. Regular physical activity helps to control levels of inflammation in the bowel which in turn can reduce the rate of cells multiplying9.
Regular exercise also helps to prevent the harmful effects of obesity and sedentary behaviour which reduces the risk for developing chronic conditions10.
How is exercise beneficial for cancer survivors?
Research indicates a number of benefits of exercise for those recovering from cancer treatments. Some of these benefits include an improvement in health and well-being, strength and muscle bulk, energy levels, bone mineral density, balance and stability, cardiovascular health, immune function, pelvic floor function and treatment efficiency. Regular exercise also resulted in a reduction in stress, "chemo brain", risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and treatment-related side effects.
How can Kieser help?
At Kieser, all our staff are highly qualified with degrees in either Physiotherapy, Exercise Physiology or Exercise/Health Science. Due to this we are equipped to deal with clients with a wide range of conditions.
Before commencing any of our strengthening programs, our clients are assessed by either a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist to screen for pre-existing health conditions. The Kieser professional then maps out an appropriate treatment plan, and works with our Exercise Scientists to develop a bespoke, evidence-based program to help our clients achieve their goals.
How can an Exercise Physiologist help?
Kieser Exercise Physiologists are qualified to provide a structured, progressive exercise plan suitable to the stage of cancer, whether it be pre, during or post treatment. They are also able to provide education on weight management which has been shown to reduce the risk of some types of cancer1. Exercise Physiologists are also able to provide post-operative rehabilitation to relieve some of the side effects of some cancer treatment types.
An Exercise Physiologist will take all considerations into account, including, but not limited to, cancer grade, cancer stage, previous treatment, current side-effects and symptoms and current exercise capacity.
Breaking down the barriers to exercise for clients with cancer
In the past, patients being treated for a chronic illness were often told to rest and reduce their physical activity. Newer research has shown that exercise is not only safe and possible during cancer treatment, but it can improve your physical function as well as your quality of life12.
The main barriers to exercise for patients with cancer are lack of funding, lack of physician support, deterrents to participation (fear and shame, program location, competing interests) and disease progression and treatment13.
At Kieser, our programs produce results in a well-structured, efficient exercise program. Kieser programs are designed and overseen by health professionals to ensure that each individual client has a personalised program. Kieser's programs allow clients to improve their strength in a well-controlled, safe environment under the close supervision of qualified health professionals. This makes training much safer not only for clients with chronic conditions, but clients of all ages who risk injury in an unsupervised gym or home environment.
If you or someone you know has cancer, visit your Exercise Physiologist at Kieser today.
Article written and sourced by Stephen Harvey, Exercise Physiologist at Kieser Caulfield, Nicole Shue, Exercise Physiologist at Kieser Malvern and Joanna Falconer, Exercise Physiologist at Kieser Essendon.
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