People always say that exercise is the best medicine. It's been proven through many years of research that regular exercise is really important to maintain a healthy body and mind. Doctors are always reminding their patients of the benefits of physical exercise and the power it holds to fight against cardiovascular disease, obesity, and osteoporosis. But for people who are suffering from a serious illness, can exercise also improve their health too?
Exercise has been shown to improve the lives of people who have chronic diseases
Exercise can help people struggling with chronic illness too. It can improve quality of life and sometimes even alleviate symptoms of certain conditions.
Did you know that exercise can be good for cancer patients too? It turns out that regular exercise can be an effective way to help treat cancer and improve survival in patients with lymphoma.
But how does exercise help you battle cancer?
Exercise is so simple, and all it involves is someone walking more or perhaps going to a low-impact fitness class. How can moving your body help you kill cancer cells? It turns out that exercise can really be an important component to help someone survive a cancer battle.
Survival was found to be improved when lymphoma patients were more physically active
Recently, a new study found that physical activity can improve survival for patients suffering from lymphoma. Blood cancers are more difficult for doctors to treat because it's not one tumor that a surgeon can cut out. The diffuse nature of this cancer makes it harder for radiation and surgery to target a specific location where the bad cancer cells are. As a result, it's hard to kill off the malignant cells without harming the tissues that are healthy. Additionally, lymphoma exists inside the bloodstream, which means it has direct access to so many parts of our body.
Over 4,000 people with lymphoma were studied to determine benefits of exercise
At the Mayo Clinic, researchers studied over 4,000 people who had lymphoma. Participants were given questionnaires to track how active they were before their cancer diagnoses, as well as three years afterward. They found that physical exercise actually had a positive impact and increased survival for patients suffering from lymphoma. Those who had more physical activity before their diagnosis were less likely to die from their lymphoma, or any other cause.
If people weren't active before their diagnosis, it wasn't too late for them to start exercising either. Those who decided to get more active after their diagnosis also benefited from an increased survival rate within the same three-year span. On the flip side, those who decreased their activity level after diagnosis ended up with higher death rates from the lymphoma and other causes than those who didn't change their activity level at all.
Though the results looked promising, the study wasn't able to statistically prove that more exercise can directly, exclusively, cause a drop in death risk in lymphoma patients. Regardless, the data showed that physical activity can truly benefit lymphoma patients, possibly increasing their chance of survival.
Doctors and patients should be encouraged by this
The findings of this study are really important for lymphoma patients and their doctors to know. If you or someone you know is currently fighting lymphoma, it's important that they know how beneficial regular, moderate exercise is to their overall health. Not only is it good stress relief and healthy for the body, it can also impact survival in lymphoma cancer. Physical activity is a simple way for people to give their body the best chance against cancer.
How this new information is different from what we already knew
The study was led by Dr. Priyanka Pophali, a physician at Mayo Clinic who specializes in diseases of the blood. She tells us that before their study, we always knew that exercise can help maintain overall health and improve quality of life for cancer survivors. However, no one knew that exercise could actually help lymphoma patients survive their disease. Dr. Pophali says that it's really important that doctors always counsel their patients that physical activity is really important in their treatment. If lymphoma patients could at least maintain their previous level of exercise, it would really benefit them and help them fight their cancer.
Lymphoma may make it difficult for people to stay active
However, it's hard for cancer patients to even stay active because therapy can get tough sometimes. Fighting cancer isn't exactly a walk in the park, so asking a lymphoma patient to maintain the same activity as when they felt healthy is likely easier said than done. If someone isn't aware that physical activity may actually prolong their survival, they are less motivated to fight the fatigue and discomforts of cancer treatments to engage in a workout routine. These patients need the most encouragement that they can get to get out there despite feeling under the weather.
More research is necessary
Dr. Pophali's work was presented recently in Atlanta during the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. Research presented at these meetings are still preliminary, as they haven't been reviewed by scientists for publication in medical journals. Though it's still too early to tell exactly what kind of relationship exists between exercise and lymphoma survival, this research highlights the incredible potential that something as simple as exercise can give to people who suffer from cancer.
If you have cancer, what are some good ways for you to stay active?
It's always easier said than done. When you're battling cancer, it's not like you're bouncing off the walls with plenty of energy to spare. Most of the time, you might feel nauseous, weak, tired, or even in pain. Depression is also extremely common, and can really affect energy levels in patients. So how can we motivate each other to get out there and work out?
Some ways to help encourage physical exercise could be to take long walks with your spouse, friends, and family. Going to group classes can also be beneficial because it's motivating to be part of an active community. Keep it simple and just keep moving.
Try finding some other cancer patients who may be interested in encouraging each other. This is a great way to stay fit too because most cancer patients are more understanding of how it feels to be going through treatment, and they may face the same physical struggles. Having a dog can also help too, because you have to walk and play with them to keep them happy. Pets are also a great way to de-stress, which can be a wonderful way to cope with the emotional struggles when fighting cancer.