Physical activity has been linked to nearly every healthy outcome you can imagine: lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and stroke; increased energy; decreased stress; higher levels of life satisfaction; and a longer life. In fact, there isn’t much that increased physical activity won’t help. The even better news is that even a little bit of physical activity goes along way. Researchers have found that activities such as walking or standing, if done on a regular basis, can lead to improved health.
Physical activity is especially important for both childhood cancer patients and survivors. For patients, physical activity has been shown to increase overall health-related quality of life during treatment (Wurz 2014). For survivors, physical activity is important because it has been shown to significantly improve bone health, and it is considered to decrease the risk for survivorship-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, early aging, depression, and cancer recurrence.
The great thing about physical activity is that it comes in all shapes and sizes. On one end, you have high-intensity training intervals, which are short bursts of demanding exercises; and on the other end you have low-intensity, longer duration activities like walking. In between there are activities like yoga. What works best for you and your child depend on several factors: child’s age, stage in treatment, physical ability, and your health goals. Although researchers have found that physical activity is safe and beneficial for childhood cancer patients (and especially survivors), you should discuss any new physical activity regimen with your oncology team.
The best news is that you don’t need much activity to start getting benefits. Even 20 seconds of vigorously walking up stairs has shown to have significant health benefits. Think of it as an exercise snack!
There are lot of great doctors, researchers, and therapists who promote physical activity for children, but our favorite source for activities are by these groups:
The FIRST STEP
Parents: start getting fit yourself. Even 20 seconds of vigorously walking up stairs has shown to have significant health benefits. Your fitness will lead the way for your child.
Young children: Remove screens as much as possible and allow for natural, playful movement.