Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cancer Patients Benefit From Exercise

I am honored to post an article written by one of the followers of my blog. Reading it really hit home me. Many of you are unaware that I had a large benign tumor removed from my neck over this past summer.  Although it was not cancerous.  I had to complete 6 weeks of daily radiation, countless CT scan and MRI's, not to mention a difficult surgery that left me with an 8 inch scar. I can attest, as you will read below, to the benefits explained. Being the fitness nut that I am, I tried not let it get me down and neither should any one else.  Thanks again Liz for letting me post your article. 

There was a time when doctors were more likely to prescribe bed rest than exercise for adults facing a cancer diagnosis, but those days are gone. Many cancer researchers now believe patients can benefit from embracing exercise instead of avoiding it.

The evidence supporting an active lifestyle for cancer patients and survivors has been mounting in recent years with the release of several positive research studies and updated guidelines for cancer patients.

A British charity,
Macmillan Cancer Support, recently reviewed 60 studies and surveyed more than 400 health care workers about the value of exercise during cancer treatment. The group’s 2011 report, called “Move More,” said breast cancer patients could reduce their risk of recurrence or death from the disease by 40 percent if they maintained a recommended exercise level. The report said physical activity also could help bowel cancer patients to reduce their risk of death or recurrence by half and it could help prostate patients to reduce their risk of dying by 30 percent. 

Those are dramatic numbers when you consider that many patients traditionally have been instructed to reduce exercise after undergoing cancer treatment. In a statement about the recent report, Macmillan Chief Medical Officer Jane Maher noted, if physical exercise was a new drug, its benefits “would be hitting the headlines.”

Similar conclusions about the value of exercise to cancer patients were included in national guidelines developed by a panel of the
American College of Sports Medicine in 2010. The 13-member panel analyzed research studies about various cancers and found exercise could improve muscle strength, aerobic fitness, fatigue and life quality in prostate, breast and hematologic cancer patients. In the future they are planning to study the effects of exercise for other types of cancers like pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and rare types like peritoneal mesothelioma. So far there have only been positive results.

The panel suggested that cancer patients should aim for the same level of physical activity that is recommended for most of us – about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every week. However, the guidelines suggest that age, fitness, individual diagnosis and other factors should be considered when developing an exercise regimen. Some types of exercise might be more appropriate than others based on these factors, and some patients may feel too weak for physical activity at certain times.

The American Cancer Society also touts the benefits of physical activity for cancer patients who are able to exercise. Exercise can lessen fatigue, keep muscles strong, decrease nausea and lower the risk of broken bones, among other health benefits. However, the cancer society advises that it may be prudent for some patients to reduce physical activity if it causes pain, shortness of breath, a racing heartbeat or other health problems. 

Every cancer patient should consult his or her physician before adopting an exercise program. The cancer society has developed a list of safety tips and precautions for those who want to get the most from exercising. Go to this link for advice about starting out:

Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Is Losing Weight Fast Dangerous?

Every once and a while I come across an article with some truth in it. Here is one that actually has some science behind it's claims.  

A reader emailed me the other day: “Is rapid weight loss dangerous?”
This is actually a fairly common question. And when I see it, here’s what I read between the lines: “How bad would it be if I starved myself to drop a few pounds?”
The answer: Pretty bad. Not because it’s unhealthy—though it can be—but because in the long run this strategy will make you fat. Really.
When it comes to losing weight, how fast is too fast? We asked Men’s HealthWeight Loss Coach Alan Aragon, M.S., a nutritionist who works with Olympic and professional athletes, for his perspective. His definition: “Dropping pounds so rapidly that in addition to losing fat, you lose muscle too. This isn’t ‘dangerous’ as in ‘life-threatening,’ but it’s not good for your overall health.”
Here's why: Losing muscle reduces your ability to burn calories and regulate your blood sugar, says Aragon—and, of course, it makes you weaker. (To keep your calorie-burn high, use our 100 greatest fitness tips of all time.) What’s more, lost muscle is often replaced by fat when you stop dieting. The result: You end up looking flabbier than ever. After all, each pound of fat takes up 18 percent more space on your body than each pound of muscle.
Aragon dug into the scientific research to determine the rate that different people could lose weight without losing muscle. His findings:
* Obese to morbidly obese: 3 to 5 pounds per week
* Overweight: 2 to 3 pounds per week
* Lean to average: 1 to 2 pounds per week
* Very Lean: 0.5 to 1 pound per week
Of course, you can help your cause even more by lifting weights while you diet. Research shows that this can prevent the wasting of muscle, helping ensure your weight loss is pure fat.
The other dangers of rapid weight loss: bone loss, dehydration, and an increased risk of binge eating in some people. “But these are typically the result of severe caloric restriction,” says Aragon. His solution: “I’ve found that you can use a simple formula to calculate a smart and effective caloric intake; it’s based on your targetbody weight.”
For example, let’s say you’re a man who weighs 220 pounds, but you’d like to tip the scales at 180 pounds. You’ll base your calorie intake on that of a 180-pound guy. Now if you don’t do any resistance exercise (you should!), simply multiply your target body by 11. That’s the minimum number of daily calories you should consume for healthy weight loss, with little risk to your muscles.
If you do lift weights, use 9—instead of 11—and add to that the number of hours you work out per week. So if you exercise one hour a week, you’ll multiply your target body weight by 10. If you exercise two hours a week, you’ll multiply your target body weight by 11; if you exercise three hours a week, you’ll multiply your target body weight by 12; and so on. (The extra activity will allow you to eat more and still lose just as fast.)
Then remember these tips as you start your weight loss program:
1. Prepare to plateau. “Your weight drop will be linear at first, meaning you’ll typically lose a steady amount every week,” says Aragon. “However, as you get lighter, your weight will tend to drop in a stepwise manner. So don’t get discouraged if scale holds for a few days, or even a couple of weeks. The closer you get to your goal, the longer the stalls or plateaus can be.”
2. Take a time out. Every 8 to 12 weeks, take 7 days completely off from dieting. “Don't consciously try to stuff your face, but don't rigidly restrict yourself either,” says Aragon. “This is a good mental and physical break from dieting that allows people to sustain their diets for longer periods.”
3. Redefine progress. “Look at other determinants of success besides the scale,” says Lisa Sasson, R.D., associate professor of nutrition at New York University. Monitor your triglycerides, blood pressure, and body fat percentage. As these numbers improve, you’ll have even more motivation to stick with your eating plan.
Remember the Men's Health mantra: If you have a problem, we have your solution.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Simple Motivation

In my experience, there is only one motivation, and that is desire. No reasons or principle contain it or stand against it.

-Jane Smiley

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Breaking The Pattern: How Motivation Plays A Role In Getting Healthy

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2008) — People fall into a pattern. They start out with the best intentions and do well for a little while … but then fall back into old habits. It’s a classic health trap: two steps forward, three steps back. People end up feeling bad about themselves. Moreover, the two-steps-forward-three-steps-back dance ends up increasing the health problems the behavioral changes were supposed to address in the first place.
Hands up if these scenarios are familiar:
  • You get the exercise bike/treadmill/elliptical you wanted for Christmas, but by April, the machine has been moved to the basement for lack of use.
  • You sign up for the weight loss plan that promises pounds will fly off your hips without you having to give up the foods you love. It works for awhile, until one day you discover you weigh more than you ever did.
  • You decide to give up smoking, but put it off until next week when you’re not so stressed.
Motivation expert Michael Vallis say most people fall into a pattern. They start out with the best intentions and do well for a little while … but then fall back into old habits. It’s a classic health trap: two steps forward, three steps back.
And that’s a problem. People end up feeling bad about themselves. Moreover, the two-steps-forward-three-steps-back dance ends up increasing the health problems the behavioral changes were supposed to address in the first place.
But people concerned about their health can not only start a new behavior but continue it if they’re honest and realistic about their motivation, says Dr. Vallis, health psychologist with Capital Health and professor of psychiatry and psychology at Dalhousie University. His main area of expertise is in adult health psychology, with an emphasis on diabetes, gastroenterology, cardiovascular risk and obesity.
“People really need to identify personal and meaningful motivations,” says Dr. Vallis, 53, a father of three children. “What’s going to keep you going when it gets hard?” (Some questions to ask yourself: Do you think your behaviour is a problem? How distressed are you about your behaviour? Are you interested in doing anything to change this behaviour? Are you ready to take action now?)
Next, the person has to change their behavior by laying out “smart, specific goals.” In other words, you can’t just resolve to “get more active,” you’ve got to identify when and for how long you’ll do an exercise, whether it’s yoga or swimming or cycling. “Get more active” turns into “I’m going to go for a brisk, hour-long walk on Thursday night at 6 p.m.”
The third part of making change stick is to recognize the role emotion plays in your health and coming up with strategies to cope without resorting to destructive behavior, for example, eating when you’re feeling down, or lighting up a cigarette when you’re in a social situation.
“Stress is what is going to knock people off the best-laid plans,” says Dr. Vallis. “All these unhealthy things—eating the whole carton of ice cream, drinking, smoking—are ways of medicating anxieties.
“If an unhealthy behavior serves a purpose for the patient, it’s important to ‘replace the function’ of that behavior. So, an emotional eater will often be unsuccessful at weight loss until they develop alternative methods of coping with their emotions other than eating.”
The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia native not only talks the talk, he runs. When his father died of cardiovascular disease at the age of 57, he realized he was at risk for heart disease, too. He started running when he was in graduate school and now “can’t not run—it’s part of my lifestyle.”
He says health professionals have to be good role models; it’s no longer acceptable for nurses or doctors to preach healthy living if they’re eating poutine in the hospital cafeteria or smoking on the sidewalk between patient appointments. He’s been doing training sessions with health professionals to get his message on motivation out to more people than he could reach one on one.