Doctors attending a global cancer conference have suggested that prescribing yoga classes to cancer survivors can reduce the risk of relapse, The Times reported.
Leading scientists have found that advising patients to take it easy can be detrimental.
Trials have shown that engaging in daily 30-minute walks and exercise classes can lead to lower rates of post-cancer problems and a decreased risk of cancer recurrence and death.
One study conducted by a US team revealed that taking two yoga classes a week for a month significantly reduced inflammation in cancer survivors.
Researchers presented these findings at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago.
The study at the University of Rochester, New York state involved over 500 patients, primarily women who had recovered from breast cancer. They were assigned to either participate in gentle yoga sessions twice a week for four weeks or attend health education sessions.
Blood samples taken before and after the four-week period showed significantly lower levels of inflammation markers in the yoga group compared to the education group.
Lead researcher Karen Mustian explained that yoga has been shown to help cancer patients with issues such as insomnia, and their team aimed to investigate the underlying biology.
Lowering inflammation is crucial as it is associated with cancer progression, long-term side effects, and other problems.
Mustian emphasised the importance of yoga, stating that it significantly reduces inflammation more than educational or peer-support classes.
The yoga sessions used in the study were gentle Hatha and restorative yoga, with poses modified for patients who had trouble standing.
The researchers plan to follow up with the participants to determine if lowering inflammation translates into improved survival rates.
Mustian noted a shift in the attitude towards exercise for cancer patients, as 80% of the oncologists in a conference poll recommended exercise.
Another study presented at the conference by the same team revealed that prescribing yoga to cancer patients over 60 years old can alleviate fatigue and improve their quality of life.
Dr Melissa Hudson, an expert in cancer survival, emphasised that in the past, patients were advised to rest and take it easy. However, recent “outstanding evidence” supports the benefits of physical activity, prompting oncologists to encourage patients to be as active as they can tolerate based on their symptoms.
Additionally, a separate study conducted by Brazilian researchers found that physically active cancer patients at the time of diagnosis were significantly less likely to die within six months.
The lead researcher, Dr Jurema Telles de Oliveira Lima, suggested that even three weeks of rehabilitation could change a patient’s risk level.
Inflammation, which is part of the body’s response to infection or injury, can have both physical and mental health implications. It has been linked to various health problems, including arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
In cancer, higher levels of inflammation are associated with higher relapse rates.
The study on yoga lowering inflammation markers in the blood is significant as it demonstrates that just eight sessions of gentle yoga over a month can significantly reduce inflammation.
Previous research had shown the benefits of yoga after cancer treatment, but this study compared yoga with a social element to confirm the specific benefits of yoga.
Other studies have also highlighted the importance of weight management, exercise, alcohol in moderation, a healthy diet, and sleep in keeping inflammation in check.