Take two long walks and call me in the morning.
That’s the advice doctors will soon start prescribing cancer patients, according to a new paper.
In the paper, researchers came up with a detailed set of guidelines based on different cancer diagnoses. The program, “Moving through Cancer,” was detailed in the American Cancer Society-backed journal, “CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians” by researchers with Penn State College of Medicine.
And although exercising might be the last thing a cancer patient wants to do, doctors say it could improve outcomes.
“If we’re seeing a head and neck cancer patient with a specific set of symptoms, we could give them an exercise prescription personalized to them,” said Kathryn Schmitz, Ph.D., a professor of public health sciences at the college and a co-author of the paper, in a statement.
Schmitz and the team found that exercising while in treatment for cancer can help improve survival odds for those diagnosed with colon, breast and prostate cancer — and even melanoma. Aerobic exercise was also found to also improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
For breast cancer patients specifically, the researchers found “sufficient evidence” that resistance training was not only safe but may help improve bone health as well.
The researchers’ goal with the report is to encourage doctors to use the new exercise guidelines as a form of additional treatment.
For example, the report mentions a 39-year-old obese woman with Stage 3 colon cancer. She’s two months post-surgery and about to start a 6‐month chemo course. She reports that her current exercise routine consists of going for walks during her lunch hour. Based on the “Moving Through Cancer” guidelines, her clinician could recommend increasing her lunchtime walks to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, three times per week, plus adding resistance training an additional two to three times per week.
Doctors in the US and abroad have already been “prescribing” exercise as medicine for more than decade for a variety of ailments including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and chronic back pain. But for cancer patients, it is not as common.
“Currently, an average person on the street will know that exercise is good for preventing and treating heart disease, but not for melanoma,” Schmitz said in the report. “We want to change that.”