Exercise is cheap – and effective
Exercise doesn’t have to mean an expensive Gym membership. If that’s your thing, then Gyms can be very supportive, but walking through woods and hills offers nature therapy and exercise too. – for free.
Cycling is certainly very good for us; why not attach a large basket and make a conscious effort to replace the online supermarket shop with a whizz off on your bike to your local shops?
Under the new ‘Social Prescribing’ guidelines your GP might have some good ideas for inexpensive ways to exercise, ; this is the latest ‘initiative’ from Whitehall – grab it whilst your GP still has funding.
Dr Trisha Greenhalgh, professor of primary care health sciences at Oxford University who has had primary breast cancer herself, agrees.
“As well as reducing the risk of a recurrence, exercise helps with the side-effects of treatments like chemotherapy and just helps you feel good, especially important when life gets tough,” Dr Greenhalgh said at the launch of her book The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer in April 2018.
More research is needed
Cancer Research UK is beginning to invest in “reliable, high-quality, scientific” studies on the matter. This includes an international clinical trial to find out if physical activity reduces the risk of bowel cancer coming back after treatment.
“We need results from well-designed trials to give reliable evidence on which doctors, therapists and patients can make informed decisions about exercise,” Dr Rachel Shaw, the charity’s research information manager, tells iNews.
What’s more, there’s now a model of how this might work, with the beginnings of its own evidence base.
Breast cancer advocate Jo Taylor set up the ABCD (After Breast Cancer Diagnosis) Retreat, with funding from the Government’s Big Lottery Fund. She had recognised the benefits of exercise on her own health after a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer five years ago.
As a result, five times a year a two-day stay-over retreat is organised on Saddleworth Moor in the Peak District. It is open to women with breast cancer and offers group activities including cycling, walking, running, yoga and massage.
Exploring the beneits of exercise
Now Emma Rodaway, a PhD student at Bradford University, has produced an exploratory study of the effects on 19 retreat participants. It showed the positive impact on the mental wellbeing and motivation to continue exercise..
“I want to stay as healthy as possible to still be here in the next 10 to 15 years,” says one participant. “I’m not daft enough to think it won’t come back, but if I can keep that period of time between now and when it does come back as long as possible, then that’s motivation for staying healthy.”
Rodaway concludes that the study should “encourage primary and secondary patients participating in physical activity groups”. And it should lead to “recommendations to NHS and cancer charities on the benefits of such interventions for breast cancer survivors”.
Physical and mental wellbeing
“Exercise is medicine,” Taylor wrote in a recent blog. “I urge healthcare professionals to encourage exercise and good nutrition for recovery from cancer and its treatments. Exercise really is a pill for both for mental and physical wellbeing”.
Of course the retreats are not intended to be therapies in themselves, in the way that time spent in Alpine sanatoriums were once seen as a cure for TB. “The idea is to motivate participants to start or continue exercising,” says Taylor.
So phone your GP’s surgery and ask for a list of the activities they can recomend under ‘Social Prescribing’; in some areas there are free Gym memberships on offer for a limited time; free tennis, walking football, netball and every kind of team game, and a lot of fun events on offer. Age UK and others have gone overboard to think up schemes to get us exercising.
On a personal level, taking my bike out for a daily shop meant I actually saved money; I could take advantage of fruit and veg at their cheapest when there was a glut. My freezer got packed!