The gym: a natural place for cancer treatment?

cancer patient at the gym

Several international studies confirm that patients with cancer benefit from training in connection with treatment. However, health services lack resources to deal with the increased need of rehabilitation measures. Consequently, unprecedented initiatives and forms of cooperation are needed, beyond the traditional scope of healthcare.

For several years, a study has been in progress called Phys-Can, in which 600 patients are offered strength and endurance training for a six-month period during their cancer treatment. This study evaluates the effect of training on cancer-related tiredness, quality of life and disease outcomes. It finds that training leads to a better quality of life, increased strength and stamina, but also that training with others gives patients social support and motivates them to keep going.

The challenge now is to mainstream the research findings as a natural component of Swedish cancer care. However, more preclinical research is also needed, for example to identify the biological mechanisms that explain the effects of training on muscle cells and cancer growth. Studies also suggest that including training in cancer treatment could have an impact on patient survival.

Since health services do not have the resources to deal with the increased need of rehabilitation measures for the growing proportion of people who develop and survive cancer, initiatives and forms of cooperation outside the traditional healthcare system are needed. Offering a combined training and research centre for patients during and after cancer treatment would be of great benefit to individuals, their families, and society in general. An earlier return to work for those of working age, a reduced risk of comorbidity and an improved prognosis would contribute to an increased quality of life for patients and their families, as well as lower costs for society.

“Our research has shown that training gives cancer patients undergoing treatment a better quality of life, increased strength and stamina. The challenge now is to mainstream the research findings as a natural component of Swedish cancer care.”
Karin Nordin, Professor of Caring Sciences

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