Doctors do not expect cancer patients to always be able to keep up the same level of physical activity as healthy people. "We understand that a person throwing up because of chemotherapy may have trouble getting that amount of exercise, but they still should be avoiding inactivity as much as they can," Schmitz said.
Workout plans also will have to be tweaked to best fit the person's condition, according to the American College of Sports Medicine panel. For example, some types of cancer therapy can make bones more brittle, requiring exercise that places less stress on them. Other cancer patients could be so vulnerable to infection because of their embattled immune system that they would need to exercise away from other people.
But overall, the new message is clear: If you have cancer, you'll have a more successful fight against it and a better recovery afterward if you exercise as much as possible.
"Our study is potentially showing that even if you don't start your exercise training until you've received your diagnosis, it can still be of some help," Walker said. "And if you're in a healthier state before you get a diagnosis of cancer, you're going to do better because your body is in better shape and you have reserves there."
The American Cancer Society has more on coping with cancer.
SOURCES: Colleen Doyle, R.D., director, nutrition and physical activity, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; Kathryn Schmitz, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor, epidemiology and biostatistics, and researcher, Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia; Eleanor M. Walker, M.D., division director, breast services, department of radiation oncology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit'/>"/>
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