Exercise Can Help You Avoid the Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Cancer patients can recover more quickly from the incapacitating effects of chemotherapy by exercising while undergoing it.

According to a recent study of 266 people receiving chemotherapy for non-lymphoma, Hodgkin’s testicular, breast, or colon cancer. All of the patients took part in a 6-month fitness programme, but only half of them began it while they were receiving chemotherapy (3 months before it was due to end), and the other half did so after it had ended.

Cancer patients benefit from exercise, according to prior studies, but this is the first to examine how timing of the exercise can affect the results of the treatment.

Peak oxygen uptake, or VO2 peak, a measure of general fitness, decreased less quickly in those who exercised while receiving chemotherapy. Their VO2 peak had dropped about half as much by that stage as had the other group’s.

Strength, quality of life, and physical function all had milder reductions. They also said they felt less worn out.

“Physical activity can generate improvements in muscular strength and increase physical condition, even while patients are exhausted after the treatment,” explains study author Annemiek Walenkamp, MD, PhD, an oncologist at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands.

Walenkamp argues that exercise causes molecular changes in the body that stimulate the creation of mitochondria in muscle cells.

“More mitochondria improve the amount of energy available to your body. Exercise also improves oxygen circulation. You can use energy more effectively as a result.

If it is not safe to exercise while receiving chemotherapy, a programme thereafter can still be beneficial. In actuality, regardless of when they began the exercise programme, all study participants were able to return to their baseline levels of fitness 1 year after finishing it.

For cancer patients, maintaining lung and heart health is important since it may increase survival rates. A further study discovered that the chance of dying from cancer fell by 25% for every additional peak metabolic equivalent (the amount of energy you expend sitting still) that cancer patients attained during an exercise test.

What kind of exercise are patients supposed to do? Participants in the Dutch study exercised for 30 minutes three times per week on a stationary cycle or treadmill, for 20 to 30 minutes twice per week, and once per week they engaged in a recreational sport such indoor hockey, soccer, or badminton. They were asked to maintain the programme on their own for the final three months after working with a physical therapist for the first three months.

According to Walenkamp, further research is required to find the safest exercise for various cancer kinds. For instance, people with lung or bone cancer may need to exercise extra caution and should work with a physical therapist who has experience helping cancer patients.

Walenkamp claims, “I anticipate that all patients will profit from such a programme when safety is established.

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