The science on exercise and cancer is the strongest of any of the lifestyle therapies. Exercise is vital, but Moving More includes stretching, movement therapies such as qigong, and the movements of everyday life.

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Dear Friend

I have found that Moving More is one of the most powerful and subtle of our 7 Healing Practices. Most people will think Moving More automatically means exercise. Yes, exercise is vital, but Moving More also includes stretching, movement therapies such as qigong, and sensing into the ways your body wants to move.

There are also all the movements of everyday life that can be undertaken more consciously. Washing the dishes. Doing laundry. Sweeping the floor. These can even be a form of meditation.

We’re born to move. Babies move from the moment they are born. Our culture often discourages movement. We sit at computers, at desks, in cars, at meetings. In front of screens. We weren’t designed for a sedentary life. We gain weight. We lose muscle tone. We don’t feel as well, sleep as well—and soon we don’t move as well either.

Most people, asked to guess the best healing practices for cancer, would likely put diet first, support groups second, and moving more somewhere further down the line. In fact, says Julia Rowland, founding director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the National Cancer Institute, the science on exercise and cancer is the strongest of any of the lifestyle therapies.

Like all the 7 Healing Practices, Moving More works best in combination with the rest. Studies of women with breast cancer showed some benefit from a healthier diet, some benefit from exercise, but a big jump in benefit when exercise and a good diet are combined.

Moving More is not just about exercise. Qigong, tai chi, yoga and other movement therapies can also be beneficial. They may be more accessible if you are physically limited. There is a benefit from exercising or movement in nature. Being in nature is one of the great healing practices. Some cultures practice “nature baths” as a profound force for healing.

The thing about exercise—and the movement therapies—is that you don’t have to be a triathlete to benefit. Even a short walk helps. You can build up slowly. Find the form of exercise or movement that you really enjoy. Dance, or a sport you love, or just walking your dog.

So move more. Try it.

Wishing you well,

Michael

Moving More at a glance

Moving More is one of our top-rated practices for improving cancer outcomes. As a very large systematic review analyzing hundreds of studies stated:

Exercise is beneficial before, during, and after cancer treatment, across all cancer types, and for a variety of cancer-related illnesses. Moderate-to-vigorous exercise is the best level of exercise intensity to improve physical function and mitigate cancer-related impairments. Therapeutic exercises are beneficial to manage treatment side effects, may optimize tolerance to cancer treatments, and improve functional outcomes.1Stout NL, Baima J, Swisher AK, Winters-Stone KM, Welsh J. A systematic review of exercise systematic reviews in the cancer literature (2005-2017). PM R. 2017 Sep;9(9S2):S347-S384.

Expert recommendations, based on a large body of research, all promote adding movement to every day. In addition to exercising with cancer, simply walking and putting more movement in your daily activities brings benefits. Recommendations from medical groups in brief: 

  • Many professional organizations recommend achieving at least 150-300 minutes per week of moderate intensitya level that get you moving fast enough or strenuously enough to burn off three to six times as much energy per minute as you do when you are sitting quietly; examples include brisk walking (4 mph), mowing a lawn with a walking power mower, or tennis doubles or 75-150 minutes of vigorous exercisea level that gets you moving fast enough or strenuously enough to burn off more than six times as much energy per minute as you do when you are sitting quietly; examples include jogging at 6 mph, bicycling 14-16 mph, or playing basketball—building up over a few weeks if you’re not already close to this level. 
  • An exception is made for those with advanced illness, who may need to de-emphasize aerobic exercise and increase light resistance training such as weightlifting and isometrics. 
  • Limit sedentarycharacterized by much sitting and little physical activity time and take regular breaks from sitting and sedentary activities to get up and move.
  • Benefits include improved physical function, better quality of life, and less fatigue.
  • Benefits are seen before, during, and after cancer treatment, including during palliative care.
  • The goal is to be active as much as possible, recognizing that at times you may need to adjust movement types and levels, such as during or immediately after treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Gentle movements such as qigong may be available when aerobic exercise is not.
  • Following your doctor’s advice is important, but even within restrictions most people can increase activity and receive benefits.

Goals include improving your muscle mass and density, staying as active as comfortable during treatment, moving safely, and staying hydrated. 

Finding ways to make Moving More enjoyable will not only improve your motivation, but may bring extra benefits such as more social time if you choose to move with another person or group.

Moving More can also contribute to better body terrainthe internal conditions of your body, including nutritional status, fitness, blood sugar balance, hormone balance, inflammation and more, better sleep, better cardiovascular fitness, and lower markers of stress.

Groups that can help you move more

Anticancer Lifestyle Program

Using expert videos, animation, text and interactives, the Fitness Module explains the connection between fitness and health, providing some tools you need to develop a regular fitness routine.

Fitness Module

We emphasize that Moving More alone will not prevent, cure, or control cancer. Like every therapy or practice included on this website, Moving More is one component of an individualized integrative plan rather than a stand-alone therapy.

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Authors

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Reviewers

Ted Schettler, MD, MPH

Physician, advocate, author, and CancerChoices advisor
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Dr. Schettler is science director of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment and the Science and Environmental Health Network and author of The Ecology of Breast Cancer. He has worked extensively with community groups and non-governmental organizations throughout the US and internationally, addressing many aspects of human health and the environment. He has served on advisory committees of the US EPA and National Academy of Sciences. He is co-author of Generations at Risk: Reproductive Health and the Environment, which examines reproductive and developmental health effects of exposure to a variety of environmental toxicants. He is also co-author of In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development, which discusses the impact of environmental exposures on neurological development in children, and Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging: With a Closer Look at Alzheimer’ and Parkinson’s Diseases.

Ted Schettler, MD, MPH Physician, advocate, author, and CancerChoices advisor

Whitney You, MD, MPH

Research Consultant
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Dr. You is a physician specializing in maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) with a specific interest in cancer in the context of pregnancy. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in health services research with a focus in health literacy and received a Master of Public Health.

Whitney You, MD, MPH Research Consultant

Andrew Jackson, ND

Research Associate
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Andrew Jackson, ND, serves as a CancerChoices research associate. As a naturopathic physician practicing in Kirkland, Washington, he teaches critical evaluation of the medical literture at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. His great appreciation of scientific inquiry and the scientific process has led him to view research with a critical eye.

Andrew Jackson, ND Research Associate

Last update: August 3, 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

 

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