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Guidelines encourage cancer patients to get moving.

BALTIMORE -- Cancer patients and survivors not only should be getting physical activity, but they should aim to meet federal recommendations for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly, according to new guidelines released by the American College of Sports Medicine.

"The first two words of the [U.S.] Department of Health and Human Services' physical activity guidelines for Americans--for all Americans regardless of age--are this: Avoid inactivity. That, indeed, is our primary conclusion for this population during and post treatment," the lead author of the guidelines, said Kathryn Schmitz, Ph.D.

Members of the ACSM roundtable panel concluded that the goals of the federal activity guidelines are safe for cancer survivors and cancer patients on treatment. The federal guidelines call for Americans aged 18-64 years to get 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Adults also should do resistance training of all major muscle groups performed on 2 or more days each week.

"There are dozens of studies that al low us to conclude that the current federal guidelines for physical activity for Americans are completely appropriate for individuals who are undergoing cancer treatment," Dr. Schmitz said in an interview.

The preponderance of evidence shows that it is safe for people who are in treatment to follow the guidelines that the rest of Americans have been given for physical activity, she added.

In particular, cancer patients should walk, as well as do flexibility activities and resistance training. The panel stressed that the benefit to a cancer survivor from physical activity strongly outweighs the small risks that would be associated with exercising if the patient had developed a bony metastases or cardiotoxicity secondary to cancer treatment.

However, exercise recommendations should be tailored to the individual cancer survivor according to exercise tolerance and specific diagnosis. In addition, clinicians and fitness professionals should pay close attention to cancer survivors' responses to physical activity so that these individuals can safely progress through exercise programs and avoid injuries.

The primary objective of prescribing exercise to cancer patients and survivors is to help them regain and improve physical function, said Dr. Schmitz of the center for clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Exercise can also help improve body image and quality of life for these patients.

There may even be value in exercise programs to reduce or delay recurrence or a second primary cancer, she said. "We're not foolish enough to believe that exercise all by itself is a panacea to prevent a second primary cancer or recurrence."

However, there is value in this population's using exercise as an adjunctive treatment or activity. Exercise may help patients to be physically and psychologically able to deal with the rigors of treatment, should their cancer recur, Dr. Schmitz concluded.

The guidelines were published in the July issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the ACSM (2010;42:1409-26).

Disclosures: Dr. Schmitz reported that she has no relevant financial relationships.

To watch an interview with Dr. Schmitz go to

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Title Annotation:ONCOLOGY
Author:Wachter, Kerri
Publication:Internal Medicine News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2010
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