Running For Cancer Patients: By Guest Blogger Liz Davies

I recently received an e-mail from one of my readers, Liz Davies, extolling the wonders of exercise for patients getting cancer treatments or those who have recently recovered from it.

From studies made on cancer treatment, running or any level of physical activity may reduce the chance of dying from the disease and help reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

Here’s Liz’ guest post:

The Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients (by Liz Davies)

The vast array of benefits that accrue from regular exercise for cancer patients is unquestionable. In the context of this article, physical activity refers to any sort of bodily movement produced by skeletal movement that requires an expenditure of energy. There are numerous general health effects of exercise that range from helping to control weight, maintaining health bones, muscles and joints, reducing risk of high blood pressure and diabetes and promoting psychological well-being.

All of these general health effects would prove to be extremely beneficial for cancer patients in helping to maintain the foundational health of the body during intensive cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, which can be very hard on the body.

However, the most important positive influence of exercise for cancer patients is likely the psychological benefit of improved well-being. This benefit is crucial because cancer is such an emotionally and psychologically demanding illness and as a result, the emotional/mental health of cancer patients often deteriorates and is neglected due to the overriding importance of keeping the cancer in check or in remission.

Moreover, exercise has been shown to aid in improving cancer patients’ self-perception of physical image, which often poses a problem due to side effects from chemotherapy and surgeries. From this perspective, exercise can help improve psychological well being which will help cancer patients confront depression, lethargy, anxiety and high levels of stress, which often occur as side effects of having cancer and undergoing traditional cancer treatment protocols.

To this end, recent research indicates that physical activity after a diagnosis of breast cancer may be beneficial in improving the quality of life, reducing fatigue, and assisting with energy balance. Exercise is especially helpful in bases of hormone responsive tumors, such as some types of breast cancer, since exercise has been known to have a normalizing effect on endocrine secretion and thus promote hormonal balance in some cases.

One study found that women who exercised moderately (the equivalent of walking 3 to 5 hours per week at an average pace) after a diagnosis of breast cancer had improved survival rates compared with more sedentary women. These scientifically-validated findings indicate that exercise should be promoted as an adjunct therapy for cancer patients in light of the potential psychological and physical benefits that may ensue.

In order to stay motivated with an exercise program, cancer patients must make sure to stick to a regular plan that fits with their current physical capabilities so that it will be easy to incorporate into one’s lifestyle. To this end, it is recommended that cancer patients embrace a simple routine that is specifically tailored to the contextual factors of their illness, such as moderately-paced walking a few times per week.

This process would likely be enhanced by working with an accredited personal trainer and would thus help to maximize psychological and physical benefits. If in need of more psychological help there are many groups for people with all types of cancers like breast cancer, liver cancer and even mesothlioma support groups.

**Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April.

Chubby People Live Longest (A Japan Study)

Here’s a health bulletin that has been hugging the health journals lately. I hope this would not give a false sense of security and instill complacency to our slightly overweight friends by foregoing in any physical activity.

Tokyo (June 20, 2009)– Health experts have long warned of the risk of obesity, but a new Japanese study warns that being very skinny is even more dangerous, and that slightly chubby people live longer.

People who are a little overweight at age 40 live six to seven years longer than very thin people, whose average life expectancy was shorter by some five years than that of obese people, the study found.

“We found skinny people run the highest risk,” said Shinichi Kuriyama, an associate professor at Tohoku University’s Graduate School of Medicine who worked on the long-term study of middle-aged and elderly people.

“We had expected thin people would show the shortest life expectancy but didn’t expect the difference to be this large,” he told AFP by telephone.

The study was conducted by a health ministry team led by Tohoku University professor Ichiro Tsuji and covered 50,000 people between the ages of 40 and 79 over 12 years in the northern Japanese prefecture of Miyagi.

“There had been an argument that thin people’s lives are short because many of them are sick or smoke. But the difference was almost unchanged even when we eliminated these factors,” Kuriyama said.

Main reasons for the shorter lifespans of skinny people were believed to include their heightened vulnerability to diseases such as pneumonia and the fragility of their blood vessels, he said.

But Kuriyama warned he was not recommending people eat as much as they want.

“It’s better that thin people try to gain normal weight, but we doubt it’s good for people of normal physique to put on more fat,” he said.

The study divided people into four weight classes at age 40 according to their body mass index, or BMI, calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their squared height in metres.

The normal range is 18.5 to 25, with thinness defined as under 18.5. A BMI of 25 to 30 was classed as slightly overweight and an index above 30 as obese.

071607-fat-runners“Main reasons for the shorter lifespans of skinny people were believed to include their heightened vulnerability to diseases such as pneumonia and the fragility of their blood vessels…”

This statement begs the question, If those skinny people were engaged in vigorous sports like running in 10k races to marathons or triathlons, wouldn’t they be as fit (or fitter) to live longer than those chubby but sedentary people?

Though the study didn’t say if those involve in the experiment were engage in any form of physical activity or those thin persons were suffering from malnourishment, i have always thought that any person, regardless of their body type who engages in at least a moderate type of activity should get the same benefit of:

1.) reducing the risk of dying prematurely, thus, both should live longer,  2.) help control weight, and 3.) helps older adults become stronger and are better able to control the rigors of life’s stress.

So, what’s next for this Japanese Health Ministry Team? A 10-year, $15.5 million study that concludes  once and for all that eating French Fries is the best fuel in running an ultra-marathon?