Life & Living

The Importance of Exercise

This month Chantel Heath looks at the importance of exercise when it comes to reducing the risk of cancer

Chantel Heath

INSTAGRAM: @chantelheathfitness

I’m a 41 year old mother of two & Personal Fitness coach. I work one to one, in person & online with clients aged 18-80. My specialisms include pre & postnatal training, cancer rehab, pilates, & GP exercise referrals. I run fitness classes online and in person in the Suffolk Coastal area. I am also a Mental Health First aider.

The C word.

We all know it and will all have been affected in some way. There is constant research on-going into treatments, and links being made between what we eat, drink, put on our skin and in our bodies and how these things may increase our chances of developing cancers.

We (hopefully)all know that regular exercise is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, with the benefits extending far beyond physical fitness. But you may not be aware of just how important it can be, not only in reducing the risks of cancers developing, but also in helping manage cancer treatment side effects, and supporting recovery. But how exactly does it help?

Reducing the Risk of Cancers developing

Regular physical activity has been linked to a lower risk of developing several types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer. It does this in a number of ways.

Weight management

This is crucial as excess body fat is associated with an increased risk of cancer development. Maintaining a healthy body weight can reduce the risk of 13 different types of cancer.

Regulating Hormones

Exercise can help regulate hormone levels, such as estrogen and insulin, which are implicated in the development of certain cancers such as breast cancer.

Boosting Immune Function

Exercise strengthens the immune system, making it more efficient in identifying and eliminating early cancer cells.

Support during Cancer Treatment

Many people are surprised to learn that exercise during treatment is an important recovery tool (where it feels appropriate for the patient). Exercise can be a valuable ally during cancer treatment, offering several benefits to individuals undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery including:

Managing Treatment Side-Effects

Physical activity has been shown to mitigate treatment-related side-effects, including fatigue, nausea, pain and depression.

Preserving Muscle Mass and Strength

Resistance training, whether body weight exercises or using weights,can help maintain muscle mass and strength which may help patients better tolerate treatment and recover more quickly.

Enhancing Mental Well-being

Exercise releases those feel-good hormones, endorphins, promoting a sense of well-being and reducing the anxiety and depression often associated with cancer treatment.

Facilitating Recovery and Reducing the Risk of Cancer Recurrence

After undergoing cancer treatment, exercise can continue to play a really important role in supporting recovery and reducing the risk of cancer recurrence.

Improving and regaining Physical Function

Exercising regularly can enhance cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and overall physical function, helping survivors regain their pre-cancer levels of fitness and quality of life.

Reducing Inflammation and Insulin Resistance

It has anti-inflammatory effects and improves insulin sensitivity, both of which are associated with a decreased risk of cancer recurrence.

Enhancing Psychological Well-being

It’s a great mood booster! Exercise promotes a positive mindset, reduces stress, and improves sleep quality, which are essential for survivors’ emotional well-being.

Exercise really is a powerful tool in the fight against cancer, offering numerous benefits throughout the cancer journey. If you are undergoing cancer treatment or have completed treatment, consult your healthcare team to see what support may be available. Many fitness professionals like myself will also have additional qualifications designed to help support cancer patients.

Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be in a fitness setting, getting out for a walk, doing the garden, and dancing in your kitchen all count!  Even seemingly small amounts of exercise can really make a difference.

The John Le Vay Centre at Ipswich hospital is a cancer support and information service which provides numerous specialist exercise classes for anyone with a diagnosis of cancer, gym memberships and even sessions to help support their children.

The big c offers similar cancer support services in the Norfolk area, check out their website for current details.