7 Great Benefits for Cancer Patients Who Started Exercising 5 Days After Surgery

7 Great Benefits for Cancer Patients Who Started Exercising 5 Days After Surgery

Marian Barnick

Marian Barnick

Marian Barnick is a Registered Kinesiologist and Cancer Movement Therapist teaching cancer patients how to move better and feel better.

Great Results for Cancer Patients who Start Exercising 5 days After Surgery

It’s so easy to look at the results once something’s complete and say “Of course that worked”.  That hindsight gives us 20/20 vision and we wonder why it took so long to figure out.  But before it’s attempted, before someone took a risk to try something new, what gave them the motivation to move forward?  Case in point – who thought it would be a good idea to have cancer patients start exercising in the hospital right after having a gastrectomy?

Well here’s how we got here…

Not that long ago, we’d lie in bed with back pain because that’s what we were told to do.  Then, there was the idea of surgery – oh my goodness – so scary to think of surgery on the back  – so many risk factors.  And now?  We have doctors almost shoving (well not literally) us out of bed hours after surgery to make sure we’re moving.  Movement is the new lying down.  And we know it works.  Not just after back surgery but for many, many more injuries and illnesses.

So why hasn’t this updated treatment regimen been provided to cancer patients?  Oh, wait a minute – it has…

I read an extremely interesting research paper that was published last month.  The number of patients studied was small (and the authors recommend future studies), but the results are worth reviewing. 

I want you to know about 7 great benefits that this study provided to the patients who took part in this study.

Oh ya, I should tell you a bit about the study.

This was a study of gastric cancer patients.  Although the incidence of gastric cancer is decreasing (great), the five year survival rate is approximately 25% (not at all great).  So these patients underwent a gastrectomy – a surgery to remove cancer in the stomach.   They stayed in the hospital for 7 days after surgery.  On Day 5 of their hospital stay, each patient began to participate in an exercise program.  This program was specifically designed for cancer patients and supervised by exercise professionals. 

Before leaving the hospital on Day 7, each patient was given a seven day cancer exercise program to complete at home.  After the seven days at home, patients attended small group cancer exercise classes for eight weeks.  These groups were supervised by exercise professionals.

Can you imagine?  First cancer, then surgery, and five days later having to start exercising?

Well contrary to how this sounds and what you might think, all of the patients in the study completed the in hospital exercise program.  One patient did not complete the home exercise program, and only one patient was “not interested” in attending for the group exercise sessions.  That’s pretty good compliance.  What else is great is that there were no injuries or problems from the exercises that were prescribed.  And the exercise professionals were there to modify the program as required for patients who had pre-existing health problems or pain/problems with their incision site.

The study looked at the ratings patients gave related to Quality of Life before surgery, right after surgery, and then after the cancer exercise program.  It is fair to say that surgery knocked the ‘crap’ out of the patients and their scores reflected how poorly they felt after going through cancer related surgery.

Previous research shows that even three months after this type of surgery cancer patients still hadn’t regained the quality of life they had before surgery.  So let’s take a look at the first benefit.

Benefit #1

Cancer patients in this study –  who exercised after surgery –  returned to their pre-surgery quality of life levels 10 weeks after surgery.

This is remarkable!

With these kind of results you can see why the authors of this research study want everyone to move forward with more testing and bring cancer exercise programs to more post surgical patients.

And this study brought even more benefits to the patients who participated. 

Benefit #2       a decrease in body fat compared to pre-treatment levels

Not only do these patients feel better but by decreasing their body fat patients also decrease their cancer risk

Benefit #3       no loss of muscle mass

Often times cancer patients lose muscle mass making daily life activities harder to perform and they become weaker increasing the risk for future injuries and illness.

Benefit #4       no loss of cardio-vascular endurance

Patients were able to improve their heart and lung function giving them the energy to perform activities and keep their heart healthy.

Benefit #5       improved flexibility

Cancer patients that can bend and flex have decreased risk of musculoskeletal injuries and an easier time with all types of activities.

Benefit #6       improved muscular endurance

Muscle power that lasts longer means cancer patients aren’t worn out as quickly.

Benefit #7

This is a big BONUS because exercise reduces the risk of cancer recurrence.  No recurrence is a benefit that’s immeasurable and the goal for every cancer patient.

I’ve talked before about the benefits of exercise and this study goes further to provide even more support and proof of how important it is for cancer patients to be involved in safe exercise.  We also know that starting as soon as you can increases the benefits that exercise can bring to cancer patients.  Remember to start slowly, remain safe, and do what is possible for you.

J Gastric Cancer. 2018 Jun; 18(2): 118–133.

Marian

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