20 January 2016
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.
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.
The call comes as a new survey conducted by YouGov for Macmillan Cancer Support has found that more than 60 per cent (63%) of Scots 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.
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.
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.
The survey also found that 34% of people in Scotland living with cancer had not done any physical activity that raised the heart rate in the last seven days, and nearly a third (31%) did not feel confident about becoming more active than they currently are.
Janice Preston, Macmillan’s Head of Services in Scotland 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 a natural instinct to tell people to take it easy when they have cancer, but in the process friends and family could end up becoming well-meaning obstacles to people taking up physical activity.
“We know many people may feel nervous about building up their activity levels, particularly if it’s for the first time after treatment or if they haven’t been very active for a while, which is why Macmillan has activity programmes running across Scotland that are specifically designed for people affected by cancer.
"The Macmillan Move More programme is free of charge and includes walking groups, a gentle movement class, circuits-based activity classes and gardening. The programme is available in Glasgow, Fife, Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh and will soon be available in the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway.”
Find out more about Macmillan’s Move More programme in your area.
Macmillan Cancer Support has also developed a Move More support pack, and a ‘Get Active, Feel Good’ exercise DVD tailored to people living with cancer: