New Study Shows Exercise Improves Heart Health in Cancer Patients

Despite the immense challenges that cancer represents to both patients and medical professionals, it’s comforting to know that cancer research continues to make great strides. Naturally, our ears perked up when a new study from the the Journal of Clinical Oncology hit our inboxes. The study links exercise to improved cardiorespiratory fitness in adult patients suffering from cancer.

Though this might seem like a self-evident revelation (we already know, for instance, that sedentary lifestyles can increase the risk of diseases like cancer), there is more here than meets the eye. As Medpage points out in their analysis of the study, “up to 80% [of patients with adult onset cancer] have significant impairment in peak oxygen consumption.”

Indeed, diminished cardiovascular function is common among cancer patients. And according to the American Cancer Society, cancer-related fatigue is also quite common, often due in part to the decline in heart health that typically accompanies many types of cancer.

It’s a problem that tends to compound upon itself. More challenging still is that fact that, even though cancer patients find it difficult to exercise due to cancer-related fatigue, this new research suggests that exercise is key to improving heart health in cancer patients.

So where does that leave us?

To begin with, it is important for cancer patients to find the right environment to enable safe and productive exercise. This includes finding the right tools to support healthy cardiovascular exercise, of which there are a number of encouraging examples.

In a pilot study documented in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, for example, low-impact cardiovascular exercise on the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ was shown to improve cardiovascular conditioning and health for breast cancer survivors. In its recommendations for exercise as part of cancer treatment, Harvard Health recommends “referral to an accredited exercise physiologist and/or physical therapist.”

Though specific exercise recommendations will vary from patient to patient, this new study from Journal of Oncology is significant for a number of reasons. For medical professionals, the study supports the role of exercise in improving cardiovascular health for cancer patients. For those cancer patients suffering from cardiovascular decline, the study offers a potential path to regaining some function, quality of life, and overall health.

And for the rest of the world, this new study indicates that finding links between cardiovascular fitness in cancer patients and exercise remains a priority for cancer researchers across the country.

That is welcome news.