Dr. Barrie Cassileth speaks about Physical Activity and other Complementary Therapies
by Moving For Life Blog on September 7th, 2012

“The very most important thing you can do to stay healthy during treatment and prevent recurrence is to engage in exercise such as brisk walking everyday. Exercise is absolutely crucial… All major cancer organizations recommend physical activity after diagnosis and throughout survivorship.”
 --Barrie Cassileth      
I recently had the pleasure of discovering a video of Dr. Barrie R. Cassileth, MS, PhD, Chief of Integrative Medicine Services at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Dr. Cassileth has been a voice of reason for decades, and I quoted her in my book, “Coping with Chemotherapy” over 20 years ago. Since that quote, our knowledge about the usefulness of complementary therapies has been piling up.
So, I was quite interested to see what Dr. Cassileth has to say today.  The title of her talk is
“Staying Strong and Healthy with Integrative Medicine: Complementary Therapies in Cancer Care.”
In the video Dr. Cassileth talks about complementary therapies including exercise, and how they can “control physical and emotional symptoms and improve quality of life and to speed recovery from illness and to sustain a healthy survivorship.”  One of the things she says that I really like is that patients, family members, care givers, and staff can also experience fallout from cancer treatment, and these therapies can help them as well. Happily, she is strong advocate of physical activity.
She explains that complementary therapies are used along with mainstream care.  She says that they do not treat disease—they treat symptoms and side effects of mainstream treatment. She takes us through each of these main categories:
  • Massage Therapies—reduces pain, fatigue, nausea, depression and more by 50% and this lasted at least for 48 hours.
  • Mind-Body Therapies—calm the body and the mind, and help with breathing.
  • Music Therapy—reduces distress, anxiety.
  • Acupuncture—can relieve many side effects and symptoms.
  • Fitness (physical activity)—many quality of life benefits and actually can extend life after cancer diagnosis.
  • Diet and Nutrition—Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  • Herbs and other Dietary Supplements—need to be used carefully. 
  • What she says about physical activity is startling and heartening:  “Among all integrative medicine therapies, exercise is the one that actually has a survival advantage… by up to 60%.” That means people who exercise after a diagnosis of cancer live longer than those who don’t exercise. And, she points out, It does lots of other good things too.
Fortunately, studies show that it’s not necessary to go to a gym and work out for hours and become a body-builder.  “We’re talking about walking briskly for 20minutes a day,” Dr. Cassileth assures us, but reminds us this does not mean just sauntering through a mall—it must be brisk.
Walking accessible to almost everyone, but remember that taking a Moving for Life class is like 20 minutes of brisk walking with friends to great music.  So whether you're undergoing cancer treatment, or done with treatment, or are taking care of someone who is, get up, get walking, and get dancing--and why not do it together?
To view the video: 
Stick around for the Q & A video that follows, too.
Contact Dr. Cassileth’s assistant at RosadoS@mskaa.org
Nancy Bruning is a personal trainer and group fitness leader, author of 26 books on health and fitness, with a master’s degree in public health. She has discovered the double benefits of exercising while outdoors and created Nancercize to help others get double benefits too. Her most recent book is "Nancercize: 101 Things to Do on a Park Bench." To see a free video of outdoor exercises and find out more, visit www.Nancercize.net and join the outdoor exercise movement at www.facebook.com/nancercize.

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