The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized and reiterated the role of exercise in preventing cancer. It has been observed that most types of cancers occur among people with a high Body Mass Index (BMI). Studies have been able to establish a link between obesity and cancers affecting the endometrium, uterus, gallbladder, breast, liver and colon. There is a consensus today in the medical community – the WHO states it as well – that the three major causes of cancer are, lack of exercise, intake of food high in fat and environmental pollution. If we exercise and regulate our diet and lifestyle, we can reduce the risk of cancer by approximately 50 percent.
Role of exercise in battling cancer
The WHO recommends (specific to oncology) that people should exercise at least two hours a week which means that even if we exercise an hour per day on the weekends, or 30 minutes each four or five days a week it should be enough to reduce the incidence of cancer.
I rarely see fitness aficionados or athletes in my clinic. The reason for this is that they exercise regularly and do not get fat either. Prevention is better than cure. Exercise has a double impact on cancer too. Apart from the crucial role it plays in cancer prevention, exercise is an ally in the recovery journey as well.
It has been observed that people who exercise are likely to recover completely from cancer. You must have heard about how Lance Armstrong and Yuvraj Singh fought and won against cancer. The fact that they were athletes – a life spent exercising and being active – aided them in the path to recovery.
Exercise is extremely important. The question though is what constitutes ‘exercise’. Walking in the park is not exercise, even though it is a good physical activity. But brisk walking is. Any activity that makes us sweat can be termed as an exercise. It can be as simple as climbing a flight of stairs and repeating it for a stipulated time.
We suggest a holistic exercise plan for those diagnosed with cancer. We advise yoga, breathing exercises and walk for around 4,000 to 5,000 steps a day. While getting into an exercise programme as part of cancer treatment it is important to start slowly. A trainer or a family member should be present to supervise or guide. cancer
We suggest starting with brisk walking, before using stairs for exercise. A simple thing like avoiding the lifts and taking the stairs can do wonders for your BMI, bringing it down to normal range.
Benefits of exercising
Exercise releases endorphins and other hormones important for your wellbeing. The immune system is boosted with exercise, and this leads to better outcomes in cancer patients. A better tolerance for chemotherapy can also be seen in individuals who exercise. Exercise also improves survival benefits and reduces obesity which is a direct and relevant cause of cancer. Exercise boosts your health. Other positives include better and healthy appetite and avoiding stress and depression.
Today, there is a major change in the way doctors practise as well. In the prescription we write exercise as one of the must do’s along with tablets and other medications. I would recommend that all people exercise regularly. I learned the significance of exercise after getting into this field of oncology.
At the cost of sounding repetitive I reiterate again for it is important: Exercise plays a critical role in the battle against cancer, both prevention and cure.
Dr Shivam Shingla is a consultant medical oncologist at SL Raheja Hospital, A Fortis Associate, Mahim, Mumbai
(As told to Vishalakshi M)
Dr Shivam is the best oncologist and a great inspiration for all the cancer patients. Thanks for the tip. This is the easiest task to make wonders against cancer
Thank you so much for your positive feedback!