For the rising number of cancer survivors worldwide, there’s growing evidence that exercise is an important part of recovery. But how much and what type of exercise is needed?
A recent review of research, conducted by an international group of experts led by the University of British Columbia, has resulted in the development of new exercise guidelines for cancer survivors. The updated recommendations, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, outline specific “exercise prescriptions” to address common side effects, such as anxiety and fatigue, associated with cancer diagnoses and treatment.
In general, the new guidelines recommend survivors perform aerobic and resistance training for approximately 30 minutes per session, 3 times a week. This is a departure from earlier guidelines, published nearly a decade ago, which advised cancer survivors to meet the general public health guidelines for all Americans (150 minutes of exercise a week).
The new recommendations are based on a substantive review and analysis of the growing body of scientific evidence in the field. Since the first guidelines were put forward in 2010, there have been more than 2500 published randomized controlled exercise trials in cancer survivors (an increase of 281%).
The new paper (“Exercise guidelines for cancer survivors”) is one of three papers published that summarize the outcomes of an international roundtable that explored the role of exercise in cancer prevention and control. The paper’s lead author, Dr Kristin Campbell, associate professor in UBC’s Department of Physical Therapy, and director of the Clinical Exercise Physiology Lab, served as the Canadian representative on the roundtable, working alongside the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, one of 17 partner organizations. The roundtable brought together a group of 40 international, multidisciplinary experts from various organizations who conducted a thorough and updated review of the evidence on the positive effects of exercise in preventing, managing, and recovering from cancer. Together, the three papers offer new evidence-backed recommendations for incorporating exercise into prevention and treatment plans and introduce a new Moving Through Cancer initiative (https://www.exerciseismedicine.org/support_page.php/moving-through-cancer/), led by the American College of Sports Medicine, to help clinicians worldwide implement these recommendations.
The new recommendations include:
- For all adults, exercise is important for cancer prevention and specifically lowers risk of seven common types of cancer: colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, bladder, esophagus, and stomach.
- For cancer survivors, incorporate exercise to help improve survival after a diagnosis of breast, colon, and prostate cancer.
- Exercising during and after cancer treatment improves fatigue, anxiety, depression, physical function, quality of life, and does not exacerbate lymphedema.
- Continue research that will drive the integration of exercise into the standard of care for cancer.
- Translate into practice the increasingly robust evidence base about the positive effects of exercise for cancer patients.
For more information and links to all three papers visit www.acsm.org/read-research/newsroom/news-releases/news-detail/2019/10/16/expert-panel-cancer-treatment-plans-should-include-tailored-exercise-prescriptions.
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