This isn't surprising when you consider that the ACS estimates—in the U.S. alone—more than 1.7 million people will have received a new cancer diagnosis in 2019. Everyone's story is different, be it a friend, a coworker, or a family member.
Stout is no exception. When she was in high school, her grandmother went through cancer treatment. Today, she still thinks about her grandmother's perseverance and determination to keep moving.
"My grandmother was a farmer in western Pennsylvania—she didn't have time to be sick," recalls Stout.
Doctors would tell her grandmother and other cancer patients not to exercise or lift more than 5 pounds for the rest of their lives. Stout says we are still seeing ramifications from this even though study after study shows exercising can benefit people currently going through cancer treatment and cancer survivors.
The real challenge is that doctors want to recommend exercise, but aren't equipped to give guidance. Stout and the other experts want to make it easy for them by reducing any barriers.
She recommends healthcare providers refer patients to a specific fitness professional at a trusted facility, instead of just saying go exercise or be more active.
The evidence suggests this type of referral improves the likelihood the patient will follow through with the exercise prescription.
Prescribing Exercise in a Post-COVID-19 World
The coronavirus pandemic disrupted normal life for everyone, and daily exercise and physical activity routines were no exception.
Physical activity levels in the U.S. declined by 48% between March 1 and April 8. This drop is especially alarming when you consider that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the lack of physical activity to be the leading cause of approximately 21–25% of breast and colon cancers.
"One of the greatest concerns we are facing through this pandemic is that individuals are forgoing care that they need out of fear of entering a medical clinic or hospital," says Stout. "But even more so, telling folks to stay home and not be in crowded places means they are forgoing things like going to the mall and walking, or to the gym or to their exercise group."
We reached out to Stout for her thoughts on how COVID-19 will affect health and fitness facilities' ability to help their members with cancer.
"The number one way to help folks who are immunocompromised is to encourage meticulous cleaning of equipment and to make available to them the means to clean their hands, the equipment they use, etc.," says Stout.
Gym-goers who are immunocompromised don't always look sick, but their blood counts put them at greater risk of becoming ill. Stout had five suggestions for clubs to help ensure their immunocompromised members not only are safe but feel safe returning to exercise.
- Be very transparent about the steps you are taking to maintain a clean environment.
- Put procedures in place to routinely disinfect equipment.
- Keep the number of individuals in your club to a level that does not allow for crowding.
- Make disinfectants widely available to members so that they are in control and can clean, wipe down, or scrub anything that they choose to use.
- If you have the opportunity, initiate or expand outdoor activities and programs, possibly collaborating with a neighborhood group or organization.
She says outdoor activities like walking groups, yoga, and tai chi may be new and interesting things to pursue for cancer patients who are looking to be more active.
It's time we start looking at how we can find new opportunities during this pandemic, whether it's increased virtual group exercise classes or purchasing an advertising slot through your local cable network running 30-60 seconds of low-intensity exercises.
"I think we now have a population that may be more amenable to some of these different mediums for exercise programs," says Stout.