Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, author of Anticancer: A New Way of Life believes that physical activity is a way of showing the body that it is loved and respected, which leads to a desire to live. Whatever the reason, several studies have shown that exercise and cancer recovery are linked. Regular exercise stimulates the body's anticancer defense mechanisms and reduces cancer relapse in a broad range of cancers. In breast cancer the reduction is 50 to 60 percent, an effect as strong as that of herceptin - a drug used to prevent relapse in patients with HER2-positive tumours.
Servan-Schreiber's advice regarding exercise for cancer patients, is to begin slowly and gradually increase distance and intensity as strength is gained. It's important to get into the habit of exercise, but this can be done by walking even short distances rather than going by car or bus. Just three to five hours a week of walking at a normal speed is enough to have an effect on relapse in breast cancer patients.
The amount of exercise by cancer patients that will have an effect on preventing relapse is different for different types of cancer. For example, while for breast cancer there is a measurable effect after five hours walking a week, those with cancer of the colon must do twice as much, and those with prostate cancer need the equivalent of three hours a week of jogging. In all cases increasing the intensity and shortening the time of the exercise, or exercising at a lower intensity for a longer time can give the same effect.
Exercise contributes to holistic wellness by preventing cancer in a number of ways. It reduces excess body-fat, a common site for storage of carcinogenic toxins, decreases estrogen and testosterone, hormones that stimulate the growth of certain cancers, prevents inflammation by reducing the blood-sugar, which stops the release of insulin and IGF, and strengthens the immune system.
In the 13 months that he was having treatment for his brain cancer following his relapse, Servan-Schreiber meditated, did yoga and ran for 20 minutes every day. He knows how difficult it is for those undergoing chemotherapy to exercise daily. But he believes that it is the most important thing that those with cancer can do to help themselves.