“The benefits of exercise in cancer patients and the criteria for exercise prescription in cardio-oncology” from the European Society of Cardiology helps to demonstrate why a cardiac coach is not just relevant to cardiovascular disease, but also to cancer. 1 in 2 people are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and cancer and cardiovascular disease are the two biggest causes of death in developed countries. Those are two very hard-hitting facts; however, the study demonstrated the power of exercise for the prevention and rehabilitation of both.
Few of us will think about the heart when someone mentions cancer, but the heart plays a vital role, and many cancer patients are found to have cardiovascular complications due to “cardio-toxicity”, which is the result induced by the drugs used to treat cancer.
Physical exercise is an effective treatment for cancer patients during and after their therapy and assists with counteracting the side effects induced by the drugs on the cardiovascular system. Physical exercise is able to mitigate some of the less pleasant effects of chemotherapy such as fatigue, lung and immunity dysfunction, lymphedema and cardio-toxicity.
Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in women who have survived cancer. The numbers of treatment-induced decreased left ventricular function is a major (if still under recognised) cause of death in long term cancer survivors. A study looking at the 10-year risk of developing cardiovascular disease indicated an 11% reduction in 10-year predicted risk.
Being physically active reduces the incidence of cancer by 48%, and deaths due to cancer by 27%. A study of 50,000 colon and breast cancer patients showed a marked reduction in mortality risk by exercising for 150 minutes per week. Compared to the sedentary patients, the mortality risk was reduced by:
- 24% in breast cancer survivors
- 28% in colon cancer survivors
Mortality was also found to decrease as the VO2 max (the amount of oxygen your body is able to use per minute) increased, further emphasising the benefit of physical exercise.
Physical activity for cancer patients can help to improve cardiovascular fitness, functionality, and quality of life, while simultaneously reducing symptoms, mortality risk and cancer relapses.
Completing the minimum target of 150 minutes (3 hours) per week can easily be completed though your resistance sessions, as well your CV homework. Both cardiovascular and resistance training are known to be beneficial to cardiac muscle function and performance, as well as helping reduce the risk of cancer. In addition, inspiratory muscle training, something we have undertaken at CP+R with a number of clients, may assist patients decrease dyspnoea or shortness of breath by strengthening the muscles for breathing. A combination of CV and resistance exercise tailored to the individual has been seen to greatly benefit cancer patients.
Each individual should have their exercise prescription tailored to their characteristics, the drugs administered, their history, and their response to the type of exercise. The lactate testing we undertake in your assessments allow us to understand your specific response to exercise. In addition, the new isokinetic dynamometer allows us to modify our exercise prescription, to manage bilateral differences and target areas of weakness. If you are able to, coming into Harley Street for your reassessment rather than having it at home provides us with some amazing data to help you achieve your best possible results.
As cardiac coaches we are here to help anyone and everyone, what we do is relevant to all, we all need a strong and healthy heart to live longer, better. If you know of a friend, family member or colleague who you would like to help, please let us know. CP+R is for everyone, so it can be given to someone requiring rehabilitation or to someone who wants to know what serious health excellence looks like, and it includes those somewhere in the middle who perhaps would benefit from building some confidence and inspiration.