Physical activity is so important in keeping us healthy and happy. It keeps our bodies functioning properly and optimally as well reducing stress and releasing endorphins. However, there is one particular effect which we wish to focus upon. In recent times physical activity has been shown to significantly boost the immune system and that it can have amazing effects upon medical intervention, helping the body fight the disease and return us to full health.
One report in particular that highlights this is the Move More Report published by the cancer support group Macmillan. Their tagline for the report, which reviewed 60 scientific studies and surveyed over 400 health professionals, is ‘Physical Activity the underrated “wonder drug”’ which says it all. The report goes on to outline how a mere 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (The Department of Health guideline amount) is capable of doing wonders for those living with cancer. It significantly reduces the many side effects of cancer and the side effects of treating the disease, including weight gain, nerve damage, swelling around scars, Lymphedema, blood clots, hot flushes and night sweats.
One important factor often cited is the extreme fatigue and tiredness experienced by patients, however the report highlights that contrary to popular belief physical activity can help people feel more energised, greatly increasing their mood and quality of life. Moreover, physical activity can help mentally as well physically, helping to tackle anxiety, stress and depression, side effects often found in those living with cancer or after treatment.
However, perhaps the strongest argument is the effect physical activity can have on treating cancer. The report highlights that participation in physical activity can have a direct effect on mortality. Breast and prostate cancer patients can reduce their risk of dying from the disease by 30–40% if they do recommended levels of activity, compared to those doing less than one hour a week. Bowel cancer patients who do around six hours of moderate intensity physical activity a week reduce their risk by around 50%, compared to those doing less than an hour. The report even goes on to show that physical activity is being proven to reduce the recurrence of cancer. It really is incredibly powerful.
All of this is not limited to cancer sufferers. Many of the side effects mentioned above are found in patients of all kinds of debilitating diseases, both physical and mental and therefore can be just as useful and affective. Factors such as increased mobility and recovery of physical function could help so many who are feeling the effects of long-term treatment.
Sadly, not enough people are taking advantage of this wondrous and simple solution. Patients are still complaining of fatigue and fear of doing further damage and are not being given the necessary encouragement and confidence to take part in physical activity, in any way they feel comfortable, and also being given the information of how it can and will help them recover and ultimately experience a greater quality of life. This needs to change and we need to do all we can to help bring this life changing ‘wonder drug’ to as many people as possible.