Monthly Archives: June 2013

Cancer and Exercise.

English: Nutrigenomics: bring disease, cancer,...

English: Nutrigenomics: bring disease, cancer, diet and genetics together (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recent press articles in the UK have trumpeted the alarming fact that “Half of the UK population will get cancer in their lifetime,” but if one reads further through the reports there was also another eye-opening claim:  “Exercise is so effective in the prevention and rehabilitation of cancer, that if it were a drug; it would be a wonder drug.”

Why am I not surprised? In my mind, these findings lead me to imagine a situation in which it is suddenly realized that that food (even in minute portions) is now the new wonder drug to cure  famine!

The tragic reality is that the vast majority of the population suffers from exercise hunger or acute chronic exercise deficiency. Inactivity is now the 4th preventable cause of death. Based on a survey of 153,000 people, only 5% of UK adults meet the minimum physical activity recommendations. (NHS Sport & Exercise Medicine Sept. 2011) and only 3% do not smoke, have normal weight, eat 5 fruits and/or vegetables per day and exercised sufficiently. (Ach. Intern. Med. 165:854, 2005). On the other hand, regular exercisers are up to 50% less likely to be affected by serious illness, including cancer. (NHS Sport & Exercise Medicine Sept. 2011).

45% of the US population has at least one chronic disease (including cancer). By 2025, it is estimated that the proportion will increase to 49%, or about half the population! Behavioural risk factors for chronic disease include physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet and smoking. (WHO).

In spite of the fact that the intimate details of the preventive and curative aspects of exercise are not widely known, efforts are being made to develop special training regimes and specialized coaches for specific medical conditions. The ACSM/ACS (USA) offers courses for a “Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer”, with requirements that include a Bachelor’s Degree. (American College of Sport Medicine).  In principle, this is a development I welcome, though much more research is necessary.

I am, however worried that, it is readily forgotten that exercise must be combined with diet in order to achieve the desired results. Diet should be tailored and timed to the training regime. Certain dietary components that were present in the mid-Victorian diet contain enzymes that induce cancer cell arrest. (J.R.S.M. 101(9):454 2008). These components and avoidance of the carcinogens present in many modern foods should be incorporated. I’m convinced that reduced energy expenditure or lack of exercise and the increased consumption of processed and less nutritious foods are the main causes of the dramatic continuing increase in chronic disease.

A specified training regime, for cancer patients, administered by a certified cancer exercise trainer together with a diet, tailored to the exercise regime as well as being anti-carcinogenic seems a valid prescription.  Sadly, the recommendation is often just a short walk.

Perhaps the cancer patients are often so weak that even a 30 min. walk is very demanding or the knowledge of exercise and it’s inter-relationship with nutrition is sparse. Either way, both are disturbing.