It has been my observation that there are two things you must not do if you want to beat cancer. You can’t stop eating and you can’t stop moving. It’s true for other animals and it is true for us as well–when you lie down and don’t get up again and when you stop taking nourishment, it is the beginning of the end. It is a perfectly logical way to die.
Cancer can make you very, very sick and sometimes the treatment makes you even sicker. We have all had those days when we really can’t do anything but lie in bed. There are other times that the fear and depression brought on by a diagnosis of cancer are overwhelming, and that too can be immobilizing.
But I want to tell you this: you need to fight the urge to sit or lie around. If you weren’t physically active before, you better start now. And it doesn’t need to be anything fancy–walking is actually the perfect activity.
Why walking? Because it requires no special equipment or training. You don’t need a membership. You can do it alone or with any number of partners. It’s free. It takes you places. You can do it practically anywhere at at any time. It is truly the equal opportunity exercise.
I alway considered myself “fit”, but it was something that I was pretty casual about. No longer. I consider walking as essential to my continuing survival. I feel that I am not only helping to fight my lung cancer, I am making myself stronger and healthier so that I can better withstand the stress that treatment may place on my body.
On July 28, The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a report regarding the results of a Finnish study. 2,560 men age 42-61, none of whom had a history of cancer, had their leisure-time physical activity assessed over an initial period of one year. After an average of 16 years had passed, 181 of these men had died from cancer. Those men who engaged in moderate- to high-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes a day were 50% less likely to develop cancer than the men who didn’t exercise.
In order to achieve the decreased risk, it was necessary to perform activities that increased individual oxygen consumption by 1.2 metabolic units. The preventive benefit was greatest for gastrointestinal and lung cancers.
Well–this sounded like a good thing, but I sure didn’t know what 1.2 metabolic units of oxygen represented. So I did a little research as to what sort of unit a MET of oxygen was. I found one answer in a book by Paul D. Thompson (M.D.) called Exercise and Sports Cardiology. He defined a unit of MET as “The amount of fitness, or cardiovascular function, required to perform various occupational, recreational, or physical conditioning activities…represented by the number of metabolic equivalents, or the systemic oxygen transport above rest required for their pursuit.”
It was hard to wrap my brain around this–if you read my previous post about the reunion with my scholarly friends and were trying to decide which one of us shared a Nobel Peace Prize and which one of us was a struggling single mother…well, I didn’t win the prize.
What I really I wanted to know was if I was achieving this level of fitness in my own walks. I read that daily living requires ❤ METS and is considered very light exercise. Walking at a speed of 2 miles/hour also falls into this category. If I were to walk at a speed of 3-4 miles/hour it would be considered light activity and would require 3-5 METS. Moderate activity or walking 4.5-5 miles/hour would require 5-7 METS; jogging 5 miles/hour or heavy activity would use 7-9 METS and very heavy activity or running 6 miles/hour would use >9 mMETS. For comparison, world class athletes engage in activities that require >20 METS. An increase of just 1.2 metabolic units began to sound doable.
If I want to achieve an increase of 1.2 mets from my daily use rate of 3 METS–I need to walk at a speed of at least 4 mi/hour or walk 2 miles within 1/2 hour. This is my current routine at least 5 days a week, and although initially I found it a bit of a challenge (particularly going up hill) it is now easily accomplished. When I am tempted to skip this routine, I remind myself that it is essential and frankly a priority.
And now I’m going to go take a walk and I think you should as well.