Exercise if you have cancer? Yes, it can help you in the treatment


Giovanni Echeverri, a sports science professional and leader of the Integral Cancer Center, Oncofit, receives cancer patients with a goal: move so that during illness the body don’t get weak to the point of not being able to do daily activities, such as cleaning the house or washing the car.

When undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy patients (not all have the same effects) may feel tired, with nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle and nerve problems as numbness and tingling; kidney problems and metabolism that affect the weight and others, according to American Cancer Society.

To prevent these side effects (or alleviate them), Echeverri’s patients train to exercise areas of the body such as the arms and legs, to be able to walk or get out of bed. Sometimes, patients who are with these treatments find it difficult to the least. That’s why exercise and strengthen the legs, arms, abdomen and the whole body in general.

To learn more: Vaccines and other immunotherapy treatments that could be definitive in curing cancer

In Giovanni’s words, exercising while undergoing cancer treatment (whether it be chemotherapy, radiotherapy or immunotherapy) optimizes people’s quality of life and helps prevent these side effects of treatment.

“Some patients say that it is more difficult to experience the symptoms of medical treatments than the cancer itself. The immune system is weakened and precisely what the exercise does is stimulate it, physical recovery increases and people are stronger, they don’t feel so weak”, says Giovanni.

Regardless of the type of cancer, exercise benefits every treatment, which can weaken the immune system. That is why we must put an end to this myth that cancer equals rest, explains Giovanni.

In an article titled Bringing Supportive Therapies to more cancer patients, which in spanish translates Bring supportive therapies to more cancer patients published en Scientific American, some results of physical activity are highlighted.

For example, scientists at Thomas Jefferson University reported that “yoga has a potential therapeutic role in the symptomatic management of patients with breast cancer, improving quality of life during treatment and improving adherence to treatment.”

While a study led by scientists at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center found that patients with breast and ovarian cancer who engaged in yoga practice demonstrated a improvement in objective cognitive function over time.

What kind of exercises are they?

The ideal exercises are the functional ones, which consist of training the body for the activities of daily life. It seeks to strengthen the arms, legs, abdominal area and the whole body in general.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (American Society of Clinical Oncology) explains that before starting to exercise, you should consult with your oncologist which exercises are appropriate for you and should take into account the type of cancer you have, the treatments you are using, the side effects you are experiencing, your physical condition, and other health problems you have.

The age of the patient, the type and stage of the cancer must also be taken into account, said dr. Kathryn Schmitz on a panel at the American College of Sports Medicine (Acsm) in 2019.

Move, don’t sit still

The oncologist Diego Mauricio González agrees on the multiple benefits that exercise brings for the disease. He says that “the first message is demystify that tolerance to chemotherapy can be affected by exercise or that the patient with active treatment for cancer You should not exercise and be at rest.”

González indicates that there are scientific studies that show that patients who exercise have better scores on the evaluation scales of quality of life and better tolerance to the different treatments that currently exist.

“The benefits range from better tolerance to chemotherapy. It is the first clearly reported. People who perform physical activity during chemotherapy tolerate better and have a better report of adverse effects. The second is emotional well-being, because endorphins are generated and that gives a better emotional tolerance to the treatment”, says the oncologist.

Also, exercising as a cancer patient is beneficial in decreasing insulin levels, improve the circulation of immune cells in the blood, reduces the risk of incidence and improves the feeling of general well-being by the production of well-being and happiness hormones such as dopamine and endorphins.

The American Cancer Society provides other advantages: reduces the feeling tired or fatigued, help to sleep better, improve muscle strength, bone health and range of motion, increases appetite, helps maintain a healthy weight, and more.

“What I have seen with my patients is that it improves remarkably perception of life the patient feels better on a mental and emotional level (which they need to deal with this disease). When they start to exercise, they are more autonomous and their caregivers can get some rest, since patients can bathe themselves, for example”, says Giovanni.

Furthermore, exercise also works for cancer prevention. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), he assured performing 150 minutes of moderate physical activity to reduce the risk of cancer, especially breast and colon, related to the accumulation of fat.

Giovanni, in the four years he has been with his patients, has shown that they can now spend more time in the same position, a situation that requires treatments such as chemotherapy. Sometimes they have to sit for eight to nine hours. It also improves appetite (in these treatments the desire to eat can be removed) and reduces the risks of cardiovascular diseases that can be caused by some anticancer drugs.

The fourth is the cardiovascular benefits, which many of the drugs we use can affect or have a bad profile from a cardiovascular point of view.

Giovanni recommends exercising four days a week with stimuli for 30 to 40 minutes that can be spread out in the morning, afternoon, and night. The types of exercises are done with the authorization of the treating oncologist.

“The exercise is not always followed. It must be noted that in these patients there are chronic fatigue related to treatment and that makes it a bigger effort for them”, says Echeverri.

It may interest you: Brave story: Ana Vargas, a journalist for W Radio, told of her fight against breast cancer

The sports professional says that Manuela Estévez, a journalist from Telemedellín, was one of the women who took part in his functional exercise program and managed to get ahead after being diagnosed with progressive systemic sclerosis, classified as one of chronic autoimmune and orphan diseases. . Exercising is also beneficial for other conditions.

Don’t stop exercising

After complete remission of the cancer, the American Cancer Society It is recommended to continue with an active physical life. In fact, Giovanni says that most of his patients who manage to get out of cancer continue to exercise. These are some recommendations that are delivered.

1. Avoid inactivity and return to your normal daily activities after diagnosis.

2. Participate in regular physical activity.

3. Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity level and amount of activity over time.

4. Each week accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity.

5. Exercise several times a week with sessions of at least 10 minutes each.

6. Include resistance and muscle strengthening exercises at least 2 days per week.