Friday, April 13, 2012

Strength Training Proven Safe and Effective for Cancer Patients

It is fast becoming a recognized fact in treatment clinics around the world that all cancer patients benefit from exercise. Physical fitness is a popular, complimentary treatment due to both the efficacy and the low-cost. In the short-term, a regular fitness routine can combat the common symptoms experienced during active treatment, such as digestive complaints, fatigue and abnormal changes in weight. Over the long-term, fitness increases the chance of survival and reduces the risk of cancer recurrence. Unlike other forms of therapy and intervention, this is one that can be used by every patient at any stage, from colorectal cancer to advanced mesothelioma.

Questions About Appropriate Fitness Programs
A prescription for exercise is still problematic, because there is confusion over what types are most appropriate to specific situations. It is known, for instance, that bone cancer and cancers treated with hormonal therapy indicate the need for weight-bearing exercise, but what special precautions should a patient with brain cancer take? Can lung cancer patients use more strenuous forms of exercise without incurring injuries? How important is combining the usual endurance workout with strength training? Most of these questions are still awaiting the results of studies, but the latter one has been addressed in several studies.

Safety and Efficacy Established for Strength Training
Endurance training offers many benefits, but increasing the individual's fitness level is more rapidly accomplished by inclusion of strength training. The idea is catching on among exercise intervention programs, but there is still a lot of resistance to the fact that most cancer patients can handle this type of exercise. This fact was established in a 2007 study of 57 patients who had been treated with chemotherapy for breast, gynecologic, testicular, lymphoma, and colorectal cancers.

The safety of strength training was shown with no reports of adverse side effects or injuries. The efficacy of strength training was tested with measurements of cardiopulmonary function, muscle strength, and an overall quality of life score. Men were found to increase cardiopulmonary function by 10 percent, and women increased by 13 percent. Similar results were found in the category of muscle strength. The health-related quality of life score improved significantly for all participants.

Generalizing Exercise Recommendations
It is important to realize that every patient faces a different prognosis, and there is no one-size-fits-all exercise program. Some types of exercise will be useful and safe for a larger group, such as range of motion exercises and walking, but others may be contraindicated by specific conditions or complicating factors. Further, specific conditions will benefit most from specially designed exercises. Because of this, the best option is to discuss exercise with the treatment team early and often, and try to find a fitness expert or personal trainer who is trained in working with cancer patients.

The benefits of exercise for all cancer patients has been established, and researchers are still at work trying to quantify the benefits of specific exercises for different situations. Evidence currently shows that more exercise and variety in styles provides greater benefits.

By: David Haas of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

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