Cancer related fatigue and physical activity

Introduction: cancer related fatigue and physical activity. 

Every year, the Comprehensive Cancer Center hosts a conference, called “Pushing Past Cancer, at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, USA. This year, Esperity had the priviledge of being invited by its coordinater, Marci Ellis, to attend the conference and make a presentation. One of the interesting talks was given by Prof Stockert, on the subject of cancer related fatigue and how to become physically active after surviving cancer. Prof. Stockert is professor of Physical Therapy at the California State University, Sacramento.

Why bother to be physically active?

cancer related fatigueIt is very well documented that physical activity has many health benefits, not only to the healthy individual but equally to cancer survivors. Physical activity helps to increase health span, which refers to the state of good health during a lifetime. Health span is said to be 80% behaviour related, and only 20% genetics, which translates as: a change in behaviour will bring about a change of health span, or in other words: by adapting your behaviour and lifestyle, you can influence your health status. According to Prof. Stockert physical inactivity is as much a riskfactor to developing heart disease as are hypertension, tobacco smoking, diabetes and persistent high cholesterol levels.

What are the main reasons for physical inactivity in cancer suvivors?

The number one reason for physical inactivity in cancer survivors is fatigue. More specifically, Prof. Stockert refers to Cancer Related Fatigue (CRF). CRF is a persistent and distressing sense of physical, emotional and/or cognitive tiredness and/or exhaustion related to cancer and cancer treatment. CRF is affecting about 70-80% of cancer patients/survivors. Symptoms are: a deep sense of exhaustion, weariness, weakness in arms, loss of apetite, the urge to take a nap during the day…

Available treatments for CRF 

Getting started with physical activity is never easy, let alone for cancer survivors. However there are some small tricks that might just make the difference: it is important to be physcially active around 30 min/day. So to start you might decide to take a brisk 30 min walk: combine it with something fun such as listening to music, while walking your dog, inviting some friends to accompany you…

Generally put, being physically active means raising your pulse and respiratory rate…so try to walk as briskly as you can. After a few weeks you ‘ll find yourself wanting to increase your activity: walking longer stretches, starting to jog …

Remember though to: always consult with your treating medical expert or whenever you experience pain or genuine discomfort.

Check out the Facebook page of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center here.