20 January 2016
Charity says patients need support from friends and family in order to reap the many benefits of physical activity.
Family and friends could be doing more harm than good by insisting people with cancer ‘take it easy’ when they are going through treatment and recovery, a leading charity today warns. Macmillan Cancer Support says that family and friends have a crucial role in supporting people to become physically active, which evidence shows significantly benefits recovery and can avoid the disease progressing.[i]
The call comes as a new survey conducted by YouGov for Macmillan Cancer Support[ii] has found[iii] that just over 60 per cent (61%) of people living with cancer say that having family and friends as company when exercising would do more to help them become more physically active. This is greater than other factors such as cheap gym membership or advice on fitting physical activity into daily life.[iv]
A growing body of evidence shows that physical activity helps not only to manage the often devastating consequences of treatment such as fatigue, depression and heart damage, but also to reduce the risk of the disease worsening, recurring or causing death in cancer patients. Research shows, for example, that breast cancer patient’s risk of recurrence and of dying from the disease can be reduced by up to 40% by doing recommended levels of physical activity.[v]
Despite this, family and friends are more likely to tell someone with cancer to rest than encourage them to do more physical activity, figures show. [vi]
The survey of 1,011 people living with cancer also found one in four people (25%) living with cancer had not done any physical activity that raised the heart rate in the last seven days, and one fifth of people (20%) did not feel confident about becoming more active than they currently are.
Ailsa Tims, 50, from London was diagnosed with breast cancer and says physical activity has been key to her return to fitness.
“It’s been a decade long recovery because of complications, but without my husband, Simon’s encouragement, it would have been even longer. He bought us bicycles and we’ve had great fun out cycling and spending days out walking. My friends also got me into running.”
“Exercise was not in my vocabulary before cancer, but I was feeling like damaged goods after cancer and it gave me back control. It’s a massively positive way to get your life back into balance.”
Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive, Macmillan Cancer Support said:
“Being physically active is a hugely important part of someone’s recovery from cancer, and family and friends must make sure that no one faces this often long, hard journey alone.
“It’s natural to tell people to take it easy when they have cancer, but we know that this isn’t the best thing for many people. By encouraging someone with cancer to get active, family and friends can play an invaluable part in helping them get their life back. It is vital for both individuals, as well as the future of the NHS that people with cancer are able to take control of their health.
“The government has committed to making sure everyone diagnosed with cancer has access to advice on physical activity as part of a recovery package, and we look forward to this being fully implemented as a part of the cancer strategy for England.”
Professor Jane Maher, Joint Chief Medical Officer at Macmillan Cancer Support and leading clinical oncologist said:
“I would advise my own patients to consider getting active at any stage; whether they are in the middle of treatment or on the road to recovery. Everybody is different, and we are not telling everyone to go rushing about in Lycra; just doing a few exercises or walking a few more steps each day can make a big difference to people with cancer.
“As healthcare professionals we have an important role in advising people with cancer to get moving, and because of the undeniable case for being active, this is increasingly being recognised. But we can’t underestimate the role that loved ones play in encouraging and supporting people with cancer in this way.
“The evidence is there and we simply can’t ignore it. Being physically active could very well save your life – and this is the message we should be getting out to people affected by this horrible disease.”
Macmillan Cancer Support has developed a Move More support pack, and its own physical activity scheme that are both designed to help people with cancer get active to a level that is right for them. The charity has also developed a ‘Get Active, Feel Good’ exercise DVD tailored to people living with cancer:
For more information on physical activity and cancer please call 0808 808 00 00 or visit 'www.macmillan.org.uk/movemore'
For further information, please contact:
Patrick Pringle, Media & PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
0207 840 4891 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
About Macmillan Cancer Support
When you have cancer, you don’t just worry about what will happen to your body, you worry about what will happen to your life. Whether it’s concerns about who you can talk to, planning for the extra costs or what to do about work, at Macmillan we understand how a cancer diagnosis can take over everything.
That’s why we’re here. We provide support that helps people take back control of their lives. But right now, we can’t reach everyone who needs us. We need your help to make sure that people affected by cancer get the support they need to face the toughest fight of their life. No one should face cancer alone, and with your support no one will.
To get involved, call 0300 1000 200 today. And please remember, we’re here for you too. If you’d like support, information or just to chat, call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk
[i] Macmillan Cancer Support. Move More: Physical activity the underrated wonder drug. http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Documents/AboutUs/Newsroom/Physicalactivityreport.pdf (accessed January 2015)
[ii] Source: Macmillan/YouGov online survey of 1,011 adults aged 18 and over with a previous cancer diagnosis. Fieldwork conducted between 10th and 17th December 2015. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the living with cancer population.
[iii] People surveyed were asked about seven factors that may make them more likely to be physically active, including: having a friend or family member to do activities with, having more or better information on what activities would be right for them, advice on how to fit physical activity into their daily routine, having access to a cheap or cheaper gym membership, having easier access to group activities, having greater access to public toilets, and having access to group activities for people living with cancer.
[iv] 51% of people surveyed reported having advice on how to fit physical activity into their daily routine may make them more likely to be physically active, and 42% reported that having access to cheap/cheaper gym membership may make them more likely to be physically active.
[v] Macmillan Cancer Support. Move More: Physical activity the underrated wonder drug. http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Documents/AboutUs/Newsroom/Physicalactivityreport.pdf (accessed January 2015)
[vi] 29% of people surveyed agreed family members and/or friends encourage them to take it easy, compared with 20% who agreed their family members and/or friends tell them they should do more to be physically active.