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Published: December 11, 2023

Show & Tell: Cancer and Exercise - Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly?

By Susan Glockner, MD, FAAFP

When we as physicians or our patients think about battling cancer, exercise is not always the first treatment that comes to mind, but it should be.  Cancer and exercise go together like peanut butter and jelly! The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has researched this topic from basic science to active clinical treatments to create a curated patient (and physician) booklet on its website as a great resource: Moving Through Cancer.

Exercise is Medicine is the clinical arm of ACSM’s effort. They produced the Moving Through Cancer booklet, which should be available in every family physician’s office as an option to put in the after-visit summary (AVS).  The booklet reviews how exercise can manage side effects of cancer treatment (medical and surgical), improve recovery, and help minimize recurrences.  Particularly helpful are the highlights about exercise’s potential benefits to fatigue, mood, quality of life and daily functional activities, sleep, and bone health.

Suggestions include “physical activity snacks” and very practical advice about the importance of aerobic and muscle strengthening activities. My two favorite sections are the FAQs reviewing concerns about safety and ability to exercise with pain, post-surgery, and while undergoing chemotherapy; and a wonderful link to customizable cancer exercise resources like YouTube videos and YMCA programs for cancer. The latter offers community and online resources for each state (and internationally), personally tailored by type of resource. The directory is easy to navigate – give it a try: Exercise Program Directory - Exercise is Medicine.

If you are ever in a hurry talking to patients and don’t have enough time to spend 5 minutes more reviewing an exercise program to help manage their cancer, please use the booklet and the directory for some quick curated information.  When you are curious about the science behind these recommendations, review the full website exerciseismedicine.org to dive deeper into the research behind the recommendations for cancer and a host of other chronic diseases with patient handouts in both English and Spanish. Enjoy sharing your exercise treatment for a cancer “physical activity snack” with a bite of your next PB&J.

MORE INFORMATION:  https://www.exerciseismedicine.org/


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