Exercise Prescription should be offered as part of cancer treatment

A global panel of exercise oncology experts published new guidance recommending the systematic use of an “exercise prescription” to help cancer patients cope with treatment side effects and lower the risk of developing certain cancers.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) convened the group, including Professor Anna Campbell from Edinburgh Napier’s School of Applied Sciences, from 17 international partner organisations. The group reviewed the latest scientific evidence and offered recommendations about the benefits of exercise for prevention, treatment, recovery and improved survival.

ACSM Immediate Past President Katie Schmitz, who co-chaired the panel, said: “With more than 43 million cancer survivors worldwide, we have a growing need to address the unique health issues facing people living with and beyond cancer and better understand how exercise may help prevent and control cancer. This multidisciplinary group of leaders at the forefront of exercise oncology aimed to translate the latest scientific evidence into practical recommendations for clinicians and the public and to create global impact through a unified voice.”

Edinburgh Napier’s Professor Campbell has been working in the area of exercise and cancer survivorship for 20 years – particularly in the area of implementation of exercise programmes after a cancer diagnosis.

She said: “These updated recommendations are designed to convince clinicians to refer and to help cancer patients to incorporate physical activity into their recuperation.  These papers demonstrate how much the area of exercise oncology has developed over the past five years in terms of the strength of evidence of the benefits of staying active after a cancer diagnosis, more clarity on specific guidelines and finally how to put a referral pathway and implementation of programmes into practice.”

Turning their theory into practice, Gary MacDougall, a 48-year-old man from Edinburgh who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer joined Professor Campbell and her team’s exercise-focused programme in April 2018. He claims that during his first six chemotherapy sessions he “became stronger and fitter.” Remarkably his tumour had shrunk to the point where he was eligible for surgery. He said “Whether it was chemotherapy, fitness, diet or just ‘hope’ – I believe they all played a part – the doctors were exceptionally surprised my tumour shrunk enough in those first six chemotherapy sessions and gave me the chance to have surgery. That operation was a year ago and after six further chemotherapy sessions I am still here, and my cancer markers are looking good.”

The new guidance and recommendations, for use by health care and fitness professionals when creating exercise programmes for cancer patients and survivors, include:

  • For all adults, exercise is important for cancer prevention and specifically lowers risk of seven common types of cancer: colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, bladder, esophagus and stomach.
  • For cancer survivors, incorporate exercise to help improve survival after a diagnosis of breast, colon and prostate cancer.
  • Exercising during and after cancer treatment improves fatigue, anxiety, depression, physical function, quality of life and does not exacerbate lymphedema.
  • Continue research that will drive the integration of exercise into the standard of care for cancer.
  • Translate into practice the increasingly robust evidence base about the positive effects of exercise for cancer patients.

Organisations represented on the international panel include the American Cancer Society, the US-based National Cancer Institute, the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, Macmillan Cancer Support and the German Union for Health Exercise.

Full details of the review and recommendations are outlined in three academic papers published in two scientific journals.  Edinburgh Napier’s Professor Campbell co-authored “Exercise Is Medicine in Oncology: Engaging Clinicians to Help Patients Move Through Cancer,” which was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a flagship journal of the American Cancer Society.

Former Scotland rugby coach reflects on his time at Edinburgh Napier and discusses his new All Blacks role

Ben Fisher may not be the most recognisable name in the sport of rugby but he may well be one of the most influential. After a successful career playing for Boroughmuir RFC and Edinburgh Rugby, Ben took his experience and knowledge to the training grounds, where he has coached Scotland U16, U18 and U20 teams, as well as working as an Academy Manager and Coach for Scottish Rugby for 10 years. While Ben has been instrumental in the development of Scotland’s 2019 Rugby World Cup squad he’s now changed his navy blue colours for an “All Black” one. Upon graduating from Edinburgh Napier University in 2018 with a Master’s degree in Sports Performance Management, Ben was offered the role as a High-Performance Talent Development Manager for the famous New Zealand national rugby union team, also known as the All Blacks.

Ben’s new position within the All Blacks setup sees him managing the 14-strong Provincial Union Academy structure across New Zealand.  He said, “We have around 400 players in those academies, aged 18 – 21. I work to ensure the players’ holistic development is catered for and that the curriculum delivered in the academies, and personalised player development plans are all of a high standard. The aim is to ensure a steady supply of high-quality professional players; great people, and future winning All Blacks.” Other parts of his role see him perform ambassadorial duties, as he recently embarked on a trip to Japan, ahead of the Rugby World Cup, to represent the All Blacks on promotional duty.

While the All Blacks are currently in Japan, looking to retain the World Cup for a third consecutive time – a feat that has been unrivalled so far – Ben believes his time at Edinburgh Napier has prepared him for such a high-profile position. He said “I chose to study at Edinburgh Napier University as it offered an excellent programme that was tailored to fit the needs of my learning. The university is very supportive of Rugby in general and its collaboration with Scottish Rugby is excellent. They help develop coaches and players in Scotland via the Edinburgh Academy partnership, the UKSS Level 4 coaching course, and also two Super 6 teams.

During my time at university, I learned a lot of new skills and the course also reinforced a lot of the things that I was doing. Critical analysis and reflection skills were well practised, to dig deep into what I do as a practitioner and why. As a coach, you take on a wide range of roles and the course helped to broaden my understanding of sports psychology, pedagogy, leadership and talent development environments. It was excellent to be able to talk and share experiences with other students and the relationships I formed through my research helped to open my eyes to new ideas and gave me confidence in my own coaching behaviour. This has now given me the confidence to challenge current practice based on what I learnt in the course and the experience I gained in my research.”

After many successful years in Scotland, Ben is now back in his native New Zealand, with his family, a globally recognised Master’s degree, and a highly sought-after position at one of the most successful sport squads of all time. So, what would he recommend for anyone who may be interested in following a similar path? “Experience. Gain as much experience as possible through working, but also volunteering in your community.  Learning doesn’t stop: so listen, read, watch and most of all ask people about what they do and why. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas. The more you share, the more the ideas will grow & develop and refine.”