Cancer Suvivors are among those most vulnerable to COVID-19,
but exercise could help.
News of a global pandemic is a worrisome time for many, but especially for those who are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing a more severe infection. Among those most vulnerable are cancer patients whose immune systems are weakened by cancer and its treatments.
Exercise, due to its role in mitigating side effects, improving quality of life and increasing physical functioning, is now recognised as a standard part of cancer care. Exercise however can also act as “poor man’s immunotherapy” due to its role in strengthening the immune system. Natural killer cells are the first line of defence against both tumours and virally infected cells, and one short bout of exercise alone can result in a 6-fold increase in NK cells (Millard et al., 2013). Improving immune function not only increases the body’s own chance to fight cancer, but it also increases protection against communicable disease such as COVID-19.
With the advice that people with cancer should stay home as much as possible (https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-and-covid-19.html) many are opting for self-quarantine. Going through a cancer diagnosis is a difficult in itself, but throw in there self-isolation and your faced with yet another set of physical and mental health challenges. So now more than ever is the time to ensure that cancer patients and other vulnerable populations are still being supported and provided the best care and evidence-based practice. Through Telehealth this is possible!
Continuing some form of exercise whilst isolated at home can be challenging, and for some this situation may even be the catalyst to starting exercise for the first time. Fortunately exercise physiologists experienced in cancer care can continue to support cancer patients and survivors throughout this time right from the comfort of their own home.
It could be an online consultation discussing the exercise recommendations for you and your cancer, guiding you through an individualised home program for you to complete independently with regular reviews, or taking you through your usual weekly gym session tailor made to now be completed from your living room. Whatever the situation you can trust your exercise physiologist can customise it to work for you and your needs.
Whilst the coronavirus pandemic has opened the doors to telehealth, telehealth will continue to service those with cancer, vulnerable populations, and rural and remote clients long after this pandemic is over. Despite hygienic clinics catered to immune-compromised patients, many cancer patients opt to avoid public places such as gyms and clinics during their most immune-suppressed stages of treatment. Although some endeavour to complete home programs during this time, many report low adherence in these weeks due to low motivation and increased side effects. A telehealth appointment with a cancer care EP could change all of that.