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‘Walk’ Away from Cancer

by Dr. Nithin Jayan on  February 3, 2011 at 4:29 PM Health Watch   - G J E 4
With more than 10 million new cases worldwide every year, cancer continues to be increasing its global burden and a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Cancer is now viewed as a chronic illness requiring long-term management. Rehabilitation of cancer survivors is hence a major concern.

Improved functional status is one of the chief objectives in the rehabilitation of cancer survivors. Evidence that cancer patients may benefit from physical exercise programmes is piling up. Walking, the most common form of exercise is a major component of daily physical activity. 10,000 steps a day have been found to be of value in maintaining desired health benefits among healthy individuals. Higher levels of physical activity are known to be associated with reduced risk of overall mortality.

A number of new techniques like the use of pedometers or microprocessor-based accelerometer recorders are now available to 'measure' how much an individual actually walks in daily life. There is evidence that the use of activity monitors may increase physical activity levels. Activity monitors have gained huge popularity as a tool for motivating patients and monitoring physical activity.

A systematic review was conducted to summarize the currently available evidence on the effect of physical activity interventions in boosting daily walking behavior in cancer survivors. The reviewed studies included 660 participants. Details were collected from five randomised controlled trials. Combined physical activity and counseling was found to improve daily step activity in cancer survivors. Activity monitors are effective in improving daily walking activity. A realistic step goal has to be set though. For example a breast cancer survivor may set his goal to 7409 steps/day; 8008 steps/day aid individuals with type 1 diabetes.

Activity monitors that help individuals to keep a track on the daily step count work as motivator tools. They prompt people to walk more and thus help them stay healthier. The use of such devices helps to achieve sustained levels of physical activity in cancer patients. Physical activity is known to reduce the risk of developing a number of cancers like that of the colon, breasts, lungs, prostate, and endometrium.

The results of perhaps the first systematic review of its kind were published in BMC Cancer, a leading open access journal. The authors admit that the study was not devoid of limitations; future studies based on larger randomised controlled studies are warranted.

Source: BMC Cancer

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