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National Guidelines Stress Exercise for Cancer Patients and Survivors

By David Haas–Guest Blogger

The latest national guidelines on physical activity and exercise urge fitness regimens for cancer patients and survivors. Researchers, cancer doctors and fitness experts everywhere are spreading a new message for people with cancer: avoid inactivity and get moving.
Traditionally, doctors advised cancer patients to avoid vigorous activity in favor of bed rest. This advice is still relevant for some patients, particularly those with mesothelioma, lung cancer and other illnesses that strain the lungs and heart. However, most cancer patients can and should add physical exercise to their regular routines.
New Exercise Guidelines
In the summer of 2010, a research panel assembled by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) developed new exercise guidelines for people going through cancer treatment, and for cancer survivors. The panel was asked to examine whether exercise is feasible and safe for cancer patients during and after treatment.
The study resulted in a number of suggested adaptations to the 2008 guidelines from the federal department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The adaptations take several factors into account, such as adverse treatment effects, cardiac side effects and bone fracture risks.
Special Exercise Considerations
People with different types of cancer receive different treatments and therapies. The new ACSM guidelines identify special considerations that patients, doctors and fitness professionals should take into account.
The research panel made specific recommendations for patients with breast, colon, prostate, gynecologic and hematologic cancers. Numerous studies provided sufficient evidence for these recommendations. More research is needed before specific recommendations are made for other cancer types.
How Exercise Impacts Health
The benefits of exercise for cancer patients and survivors are many and varied. Physical activity positively impacts physical and psychological health. Exercise is an amazing remedy for many of the side effects of radical treatments. It also encourages an optimistic outlook, which is important for successful recovery and general well-being.
While 150 minutes of exercise is a cancer patient’s ideal weekly goal, even small amounts of activity are beneficial. Researchers, doctors, fitness professionals and, of course, the patients themselves witness significant gains from exercise versus inactivity.
Balancing Exercise and Rest
As they adapt the ACSM guidelines to specific recommendations, patients must also be realistic. The benefits of physical fitness are clear, but there are times when patients are too sick and tired to exercise. A decrease in activity and a short rest period may be needed before they can start moving again. Even then, small steps can produce dramatic results for cancer patients and survivors.



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