CANCER-RELATED FATIGUE: CAN WE CONTROL IT INSTEAD OF IT CONTROLLING US?

Written by: Ciella Berman
Published: July 21, 2023

Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) affects 90% of cancer patients and is without a doubt the most debilitating factor that impacts patients. Unlike regular fatigue, it isn’t managed through rest which can make it really hard to manage. Imagine having a full night’s rest and waking up like you’ve only had 1hr of sleep! Its described as “The brain says go and the body says no”

The hard part about CRF is not much is known about it however preliminary research may have found the key to unlocking this issue, you guessed it… EXERCISE

Whilst we are still in the early days exciting data is coming out that tells us that even though exercise may feel like an impossible task whilst it can actually work to the patient’s benefit in a really powerful way

But what can exercise do, why does it help?

Well let’s think about what we know about exercise already

  • Increases strength
  • Increases aerobic fitness
  • Improves shortness of breath
  • Improves mental health
  • Improves cognitive function

If our body can function and operate with more ease then we are using less energy which allows us to have more energy!!

Can I do any exercise or is there specific exercise that harnesses these powers better?

To start research has only been done on more traditional styles of exercise such as structured strength and cardio training however with these two types of exercise alone they’ve seen patients move through their day with less fatigue and more energy to get through their day.

Cardio training that can work wonders:

  • Go for walks
  • Jumping on a stationary bike
  • Going for a swim

Types of strength training that can be effective:

  • Lifting weights in the gym
  • Doing band work at home
  • Pilates at home or with a professional

What do the guidelines recommend for patients who experience fatigue?

Currently, it is recommended that individuals aim for 2-5 sessions a week with each session lasting around 30 minutes in duration. Sessions should be a mix of cardio and resistance training and should include supervised and non-supervised sessions to ensure you’re on the right track.

How hard should I be working? (Refer to RPE chart below)

If we look at the scale we want to be working at a moderate intensity for both cardio and strength, this will allow you to get through the session with more ease, still get the benefits but not completely wipe you out for the rest of the day.