Despite the fact that numerous studies have shown the powerful effect that exercise can have on recovery from cancer, including reducing tumor recurrence rates by up to 50%, a new study has shown that many cancer patients are reluctant to exercise, and fewer still discuss it with their oncologists.
According to the Mayo Clinic study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, patients took exercise advice most seriously when it came directly from their oncologists, but none of those studied had discussed it with them.
The study was part of a series of investigations looking at exercise habits among 20 adult lung cancer patients. Researchers found that patients who exercised regularly before their diagnosis were more likely to exercise than those who had not. Many patients considered daily activities, such as gardening, sufficient exercise.
“There was a real sense of what I do every day, that’s my exercise,” said lead author Andrea Cheville, MD.
Most of the patients thought that their daily activities equated to exercise, whereas in reality, most of these activities required minimal effort. Such inactivity can contribute to weakening of the body and greater vulnerability to problems, including cancer recurrence.
“Generally, patients are not being given concrete advice about exercise to help them maintain functionality and to improve their outcomes,” added Dr. Cheville.
Exercise can improve patients’ mobility, enable them to enjoy activities and keep them from becoming isolated in their homes. It can contribute to overall feelings of strength and physical safety, ease cancer-related fatigue and improve sleep.
The researchers now plan to investigate how to make the message about exercise meaningful to cancer patients so that they can optimize symptom relief and enhance their own recovery.