Walking and Cancer Recovery: A Crucial Connection

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jumping in bare feet

I’ve already blogged about how walking

— just walking! —

has been medically found to support cancer recovery better than any chemotherapeutic agent we have currently available.


And now, just released in 2015, the first meta-analysis looking at the effects of walking on sleep in cancer patients.


Sleep disorders are very common during cancer treatment and recovery with many patients reporting daily sleep disturbances which in turn affect physical function, healing, mood, energy levels, and quality of life.

Although it is well know that exercise has been shown to improve sleep due to boosted immune response, core body temperature regulation, autonomic function, enhanced endocrine function, and mood…

…these parameters have never before been studied on such a wide scale specifically in cancer patients before.


Here is what the researchers found:


  • Looking at 9 different randomized, controlled trials, almost 600 patients were included in this meta-analysis.
  • Walking was found to improve sleep equally in all different types of cancers followed in the study (including breast cancer)
  • Walking significantly helped sleep no matter what stage of cancer the participants were in — the effect did not differ among early vs. late stage cancers
  • Moderately paced walking showed the best sleep improvement, better than mild intensity walking and equivalent to high intensity walking
  • Adding on other exercises (such as water aerobics, tai-chi, yoga, Pilates, etc…) did not enhance sleep benefits or provide any additional sleep support



With walking being such an accessible, low cost, and holistic approach for supporting better sleep in cancer patients, especially when compared to other forms of exercise, walking should be part of the healing Rx for ANY cancer patient wishing to optimize their time spent in restorative, healing sleep.


This info comes on the heels of another important medical study I shared just last year, that proved that walking was the best predictor of positive outcome in cancer recovery we have.

Again, just as in the sleep study, there was no stressful or intense exercise needed to see overwhelming and significant positive indication of cancer recovery.

Published on Jan 13, 2014 in the Journal Of Clinical Oncology, researchers followed 2,300 colorectal cancer patients and measured their activity level before and after cancer diagnosis.



The results?

  • The more active study participants were, the better their long-term outcome.
  • Even patients that were doing no physical activity prior to diagnosis… if they began walking after diagnosis and during recovery, their outcomes were improved as well.
  • Active colorectal cancer patients had a 0.58 risk reduction — this is a decrease in mortality rates by almost HALF! — better than any chemotherapy we have available to date
  • And those who were not active had an increased rate of mortality…. a 1.36 risk increase.
  • There was another threshold that they looked at, which was sedentary time vs. active time:
    • Patients risk went up if they spent more than 6 hours of the day sitting.
    • Patients risk went down if the spent less than 3 hours of the day sitting.


Together, the results of these two important medical studies suggest that:


  • Walking has a greater impact on cancer prognosis than chemotherapy!

  • Walking helps reverse sleep impairment during cancer treatment and supports better sleep during recovery

  • Walking is so important during cancer treatment that it should be considered front line therapy


How active do you need to be to show the protective and healing benefits?


  • Not very active. It is way more important to just be up and walking around, decreasing sedentary time, then it is to exercise strenuously or to add on additional exercise modalities on top of walking
  • The amount of activity that triggered this protective benefit was only the equivalent of 20 minutes of walking a day.
  • No jogging, no weight lifting, no exercise class, no machines. Just the equivalent of walking for 20 minutes each day, or about 150 minutes of walking a week.


Taken together…

it’s not about finding a huge block of time to exercise each day.

It’s about getting up as often as you can throughout the day and walking around your home or office… checking the mail… walking to a park… taking the stairs… going on an after dinner stroll.

Getting up during times of prolonged sitting and doing a little movement. Decreasing the amount of time spent sitting. It’s long been known that simply walking can help with other diseases, such as preventing diabetes.

So a crucial part of your cancer recovery plan?

Reducing the amount of time you sit still…

…and introducing walking as your main form of exercise,

improving your cancer prognosis and supporting your restorative sleep.



Getting up and feeling movement and appreciation for the skin you are in and the body that holds you.

Using your body… stretching it and bending in and caring for it… not sitting in one position for hours on end.


So… do you need a gym membership to be healthy?



Do you need to set aside structured time each day to pound out a work out?

Not unless that’s what you love to do!


Do you need to force yourself to stick to a painful or intense exercise program?


All it takes, to improve cancer outcome better than any medication (and improve your restorative sleep at night) is simply to get walking.


Turns out adopting a dog and taking it on a few short walks a day is a better cancer treatment plan then anything else we have to offer right now.


Enjoy this empowering information and instead of fighting your body… walk it.


Spread this to any of your loved ones that are concerned about their heart health, diabetes risk, cancer risk, or cancer recovery by clicking the Facebook, Pinterest or email icons below.

Here for you, as always…

xoxox, Laura