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This article is from the WebMD News Archive

Walking a mile a day could benefit cancer patients

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
 young couple walking

9th August 2014 – Patients diagnosed with 2 of the most common types of cancer could cut their risk of dying from the disease by walking a mile each day, experts say.

New calculations from Macmillan Cancer Support and the walking group, Ramblers, say a brisk walk each day could also ease some of the debilitating side effects of cancer, such as anxiety, depression and weight change.

Using data from Macmillan Cancer Support’s ‘Move More’ report on physical activity, the charities say that:

  • Walking 1 mile at a moderate pace (3mph), or for just 20 minutes a day, could reduce breast cancer patients’ risk of dying from the disease by 40%
  • The same walking regime could cut the risk of patients with prostate cancer dying from the disease by almost a third (30%)

Preventing cancer recurrence

The research also highlights the positive impact that walking can have on all people with cancer. It says covering a mile a day on foot could reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence by 40%, while bowel cancer patients could slash their risk in half by walking just 50 minutes a day.

Despite the evidence, Macmillan estimates that currently 1.6 million of the 2 million people living with cancer in the UK are not active at recommended levels.

In a statement, Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says: "We know that the health benefits of physical activity are incredible and today’s research highlights the very simple reality - walking can save lives.

"For cancer patients, physical activity can not only reduce the risk of dying or the cancer coming back, but it can also help to manage some of the devastating side effects of treatment such as swelling, fatigue or anxiety.

"We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to what is a very simple and obvious solution. Physical activity is a wonder drug and health care professionals must prescribe physical activity, such as walking, as a standard part of cancer recovery."

Walking for Health scheme

The Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support run a scheme called Walking for Health which supports 600 local walking schemes.

Benedict Southworth, chief executive of the Ramblers, says in a statement: "Walking for Health offers free, short group walks across England, which are the perfect way to build confidence and fitness in a friendly, supportive space. All walks are led by friendly, knowledgeable people, specially trained for the job. Many of our walkers have long term conditions such as cancer themselves and find the companionship and fresh air a wonderful therapy.

"We want to put walking at the centre of efforts to tackle physical inactivity and echo Macmillan’s call for health professionals to prescribe walking to those who are recovering from cancer or other health conditions."

Reviewed on August 29, 2014

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