Exercise is cheap – and effective

Yet another ‘initiative’ is appearing at a local surgery near you:  Social Prescribing (SP). Basically this is an attempt to get patients more mobile, cut down on obesity and help us lose weight.
For SP, you will make an appointment at your surgery with a specialist, who can work out what exercise/s you want to do, and advise where to get this.  It might range from chair exercises at a local village hall, or even a voucher giving money off for gym membership.
The impossibility of fulfilling Election ‘promises’ makes it more than likely funding for the NHS will be cut, so the more we can do to improve our own health the better. We are going to have to learn to ‘use’ the NHS in more creative ways to get continuing care.
Come December 13th, whoever is elected, you can guess they won’t find enough cash down at the Treasury to cover all of the promises on the NHS in Election manifestos. Politicians will be scrabbling around to see how they can balance the books, without their pledges catching up with them.We are all going to have to take more care of ourselves, and be creative with what is available.
Turning to exercise that’s free
Grannies’ old-fashioned advice “go for a walk” is free, and good exercise. More and more doctors are saying exercise boosts our wellbeing. And now – scientist are calling for research into whether exercise can help stop cancer recurring
No solid evidence as yet, but scientists are thinking and talking about the possibilities.
Cost 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.

Checking out the latest science can maybe offer more than we dare to think. Not least for the estimated 35,000 people who are living with secondary breast cancer in the UK.  Recently iNews had some encouraging info to announce.
The team behind cancerfit.me, set up by “survivors” of the illness, including breast cancer surgeon  Liz O’Riordan, are confident that exercise can help in “reducing side effects, decreasing cancer-related fatigue and bringing enhanced self-esteem – and possibly reduced risk of recurrence and improved survival”.

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!