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SPORTS, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND CANCER

History of the world of sports in filled with inspiring stories of great sportsman who were afflicted with ‘C’word and overcame the illness at the tiebreaker. From Lance armstrong to Yuvraj singh , these sportsmen lived to give us the saying ”You may have cancer, let not the cancer have you”.

A study published as part of a Lancet special series on physical activity and global health estimated that 5.3 million of the 57 million deaths worldwide in 2008 were down to physical inactivity. In the past, physicians usually advised patients with chronic diseases to rest and avoid physical effort. These recommendations while empirical were based on fact that most chronic diseases are associated with functional changes resulting in an impairment of physical performance. Hence it was assumed that exercise in this group of patients may generate fatigue, breathlessness, and tachycardia. Therefore, avoiding physical activity results in less discomfort.

However, in the last few years, scientific evidence has dramatically changed our ideas about exercise for patients with chronic diseases including cancer. In the late 1960s, the inclusion of physical activity in rehabilitation programmes for patients who had had myocardial infarction set a milestone and opened up new perspectives for the use of exercise in treatment for chronic diseases. Now, it is a well established fact that excessive rest and lack of physical activity may actually also be a cause of cancer. Regular physical activity also helps to keep body weight at a healthy level, and being overweight or obese can greatly increase the risk of cancer. But the activity itself also has a protective effect, which is independent of its effects on bodyweight.

Physical activity protects the body against tumor development through its role in energy balance, hormone metabolism, insulin regulation and decreasing the time the organ is exposed to potential carcinogens. Physical activity has also been found to alter a number of inflammatory and immune factors, some of which may influence cancer risk.

The medical attitude regarding exercise for cancer patients is changing fast. The recent world class performances of sportsman who have been treated for cancer have focussed attention on the effects of training on the physical performance of cancer patients. Moreover, recent studies have shown that physical activity may improve both the quality of life and mood , physical performance and also reduce complications in cancer patients during and after treatment with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery. Finally, preliminary evidence suggests that regular physical activity may improve immune function.Therefore, exercise could play a potential role as complementary therapy for cancer patients during and after treatment.

The Department of Health in developed countries recommend At least 150 minutes (2 & 1/2 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity over a week (20 minutes / day). Physical activity to improve muscle strength should be carried out on at least two days per week.

“Come to see, a man learns nothing from winning. The act of losing, however, elicits great wisdom. Not the least of which is how much more enjoyable it is to win. It is inevitable to loose now and again. The trick is not to make a habit of it” - Albert Finney, A Good Year (2006)

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