Exercise and nutrition program helps cancer survivors

Thursday, 22 February, 2018

Exercise and nutrition program helps cancer survivors

A nutrition and physical activity trial for cancer survivors has found that participants who completed the program maintained lifestyle improvements, reducing the risk of their cancer recurring.

The trial results, undertaken by the Cancer Council NSW and the University of Newcastle, were published in the American Journal of Health Behaviour. They show that weight and BMI remained stable and participants kept up increased levels of physical activity in the 12 months post trial.

“Both of those factors — physical activity and a healthy weight — have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and improve the psychosocial health of cancer survivors, so those results are really promising,” said Cancer Council NSW Director of Cancer Support Services Annie Miller.

“We found that 12 months after the trial, 67% of participants continued to improve their level of physical activity, 63% maintained increased levels of moderate-to-vigorous exercise and 46% maintained their weight,” Miller continued.

Because cancer survivors face many physical and emotional challenges after treatment, Cancer Council NSW offers its own lifestyle program for cancer survivors: ENRICHing Survivorship.

What is ENRICH?

The ENRICHing Survivorship program is a free group-based program comprising eight, two-hour, face-to-face, weekly sessions. The program introduces cancer survivors to a range of nutrition information, involvement in physical activity, and practical information and discussion about adjusting to life following cancer treatment. A carer, partner or family member is welcome, and encouraged, to attend with the survivor.

Participants are screened for the following eligibility criteria:

  • Completed active cancer treatment but may be receiving ongoing adjunctive therapy eg, Herceptin. There are no time constraints implemented; those affected by cancer can join anytime following completion of their active treatment.
  • Carer, partner or family member attending with those affected by cancer.
  • Over 18 years of age.
  • Physically able to participate.
  • Commitment (willing to complete the full 8-week program).

Healthy lifestyle sessions are co-facilitated by an exercise specialist and dietitian. Sessions contain a mix of resistance and cardiovascular exercise as well as healthy eating knowledge and skill development. The program also includes a yoga and mindfulness session, taught by qualified tutors, and a peer support session, led by volunteers, which provide practical information and support.

“Maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy weight after cancer is one of the most important things you can do. Physical activity can improve muscle strength, stamina, self-esteem, quality of life and reduce common side effects of cancer treatment such as fatigue, nausea, pain, anxiety and depression. It’s never too late to implement healthy habits into your daily routine,” Miller concluded.

For more information, visit www.cancercouncil.com.au/ENRICH.

Healthcare professionals can refer their patients to the ENRICH program here.

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