Over the past few years, we have been exposed to a vast array of evidence that details the positive effects of exercising for those recovering from cancer treatment. It is certainly a very exciting prospect and as the word spreads and the information consistently stacks up, we have seen a significant increase in referrals from doctors and oncologists over the last couple of years, and the programs we prescribed to cancer patients have become more and more clinically relevant.
In the past, we have discussed the idea of prehabilitation – i.e. the validity of commencing an exercise program before undergoing cancer treatment or surgery, and how it impacts on outcomes. Recent research conducted at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia has shown that a regular dose of physical activity in the lead up to surgery for prostate cancer helps patients recover faster, and spend less time in hospital.
It is the first time that the idea of prehabilitation prior to surgery has demonstrated benefits in prostate cancer patients. In doing so under close guidance of an Exercise Physiologist, it was found to be safe, side effect-free and can be done while undergoing chemo or radiotherapy. Just two sessions a week of resistance and exercise training for six weeks can make a difference to recovery.
The supervised exercise programs were deigned to help patients build fitness, including resistance training in the form of lifting weights as well as aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging and cycling. The results showed patients' fitness levels increased by 15 per cent, making them much stronger going into surgery, and better able to recover and get back into daily life.
Many prostate cancer patients have to endure a stressful waiting period of six to ten weeks between diagnosis and surgery. GPs and surgeons have traditionally told patients to rest while they wait, but the evidence indicates that using this time to actually prepare for the surgery and recovery by getting active helps patients return to usual daily activities better and quicker.
More information: F. Singh et al. Feasibility of Presurgical Exercise in Men With Prostate Cancer Undergoing Prostatectomy, Integrative Cancer Therapies (2016). DOI: 10.1177/1534735416666373