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.
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,
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
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.
|1||Stout 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.|