Swimming can help beat cancer
22 August 2011
A recent report by Macmillan Cancer Support supports the benefits of swimming in maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle.
The report advises that cancer patients receiving treatment should be encouraged to take part in two and a half hours of physical activity every week and states that of the two million cancer survivors in the UK, around 1.6 million are not physically active enough.
Swimming is like hydro-therapy and there’s no gravity involved so you are not fighting against anything
Breast cancer survivor Fiona Stevenson had given up on the idea of ever going swimming again after undergoing a mastectomy.
But Fiona is now swimming regularly, has competed in competitions, and is training to become a swimming coach.
“My recommendation is as long as the doctor says it is safe, then go for it," she said. "Obviously in the early stages of recovery you need to wait for any dressings to be removed before you can head for the pool, but once these are out of the way there should be nothing stopping you.
"I found that the more you stiffen up, the worse it is. Swimming is like hydro-therapy and there’s no gravity involved so you are not fighting against anything.
“In particular I found that swimming was really effective at reducing my lymphoedema, a swelling that develops because of a build-up of lymph fluid in the body's tissues and a common side-effect from cancer surgery or radiotherapy.”
While swimming has well-known benefits for the heart and cardio-vascular system, few people know it has huge benefits on the body's mental health and immune system.
“Swimming is particularly effective at improving body circulation and delivering blood to the furthest regions of the body," said ASA Research and Insight Manager Ian Freeman.
"This transports waste products away, improves digestion rates and when coupled with high quality protein immediately after a swim, strengthens the immune system.
"Swimmers can also benefit from essential cancer fighting anti-oxidants by eating a meal later that is rich with cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli or cauliflower).
"Getting into the habit of swimming once a week (and more if possible), for at least 30 minutes means that the body gets used to regular swimming sessions. All these benefits add up to a healthier lifestyle and can help to reduce cancer risk.
“Swimming also helps those diagnosed with cancer to fight the disease as a therapeutic strategy.
"As well as improving blood flow it works muscles and reduces swelling, strengthens muscles, keeps joints flexible, maintains and improves range of movement and improves posture. Swimming is particularly helpful if you have joint problems as it works the muscles without putting joints under strain.”
Advice from the ASA is that rehabilitation programmes that include physical activity should always be tailored to the individual, so talk to your GP or consultant to check that swimming is right for you.