Tired after cancer treatment? Walking may help

Updated 21 November 2012

Tired after cancer treatment? Walking may help

People who have been treated for cancer often have lingering fatigue, but a new analysis of more than three dozen studies suggests regular walking or cycling might help boost their energy.
Patients' long-lasting tiredness has been blamed both on the cancer itself, including cancer-related pain, and on the effects of treatments such as chemotherapy.
Prior studies point to talk therapy, nutrition counseling and acupuncture as possible ways to ease cancer-related fatigue during or after treatment. But light-to-moderate exercise has the advantage of being something people can do on their own time, for little or no cost.
"We're not expecting people to go out and be running a mile the next day," said Fiona Cramp, who worked on the analysis at the University of the West of England in Bristol.
"Some people will be well enough that they're able to go for a jog or go for a bike ride, and if they can, that's great. But we would encourage people to start with a low level of activity," she told Reuters Health — such as a 20-minute walk a couple of times each day.
Cramp and her colleague James Byron-Daniel pooled findings from 38 studies that directly compared more than 2,600 people with cancer-related fatigue who did or didn't go through an exercise program.
The majority of that research looked at women with breast cancer. The type of exercise program varied, from walking or biking to weight training or yoga. More than half of the studies included multiple exercises or allowed participants to choose their own type of physical activity.
The amount of prescribed exercise ranged from two times per week to daily workouts, lasting anywhere from ten minutes to two hours, depending on the study.
When they combined the results, the researchers found physical activity both during and after cancer treatment was tied to improved energy. In particular, aerobic exercise such as walking and cycling tended to reduce fatigue more than resistance training, they reported this week in the journal The Cochrane Library.
"What we do know is there will be an appreciable difference; the average patient will get a benefit from physical activity," Cramp said. "The actual amount of reduction in fatigue is going to vary according to the individual."
For example, the team saw exercise-related benefits for people with breast cancer and prostate cancer, although not for those with the blood and bone marrow cancers leukemia and lymphoma.
"Some of the hematologic patients may not have the reserves to always tolerate the aerobic exercise," said Carol Enderlin, who has studied fatigue and cancer at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.
"They do not always have the oxygen carrying capacity, for instance," because the disease and treatment affect blood cell counts. For those people, non-aerobic exercise or exercise at a lower dose may be a better option, said Enderlin, who wasn't part of the research team.
Regular moderate exercise is one non-drug therapy recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.
Although it might seem intuitive to deal with fatigue by getting lots of rest and avoiding extra activity, that could lead to more loss of muscle mass and fitness, according to Cramp and Byron-Daniel.
One cancer specialist not involved in the new study said that along with reducing fatigue, a combination of moderate exercise and nutrition therapy may help women with breast cancer in particular lower their risk of recurrence. Women being treated for breast cancer tend to gain weight, said Dr. Roanne Segal, from the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada.
"We are now pushing… lifestyle programs which incorporate diet and exercise to get you to either maintain your weight or reduce your weight," she told Reuters Health.
But the most appropriate exercise program, Segal added, will depend on where patients are with their treatment and the details of their particular cancer.
Cramp emphasized that people will have different goals and abilities when it comes to exercise, and that they should discuss those with their doctor. And although most patients will be able to do some kind of physical activity, fragile bones and anemia might hold others back.
"Cancer patients should of course first talk with their doctor to see if it's safe to exercise," Enderlin told Reuters Health. "If it's felt they are safe to exercise, they should maintain a level of at least comfortable activity in order to keep up their endurance, to keep up their strength (and) to promote function."


Traditional dish nourishes hope in Kabul

Updated 25 January 2020

Traditional dish nourishes hope in Kabul

  • Expats and Afghans queue together for taste of local eatery’s authentic stew

KABUL: The soft snap of customers breaking bread punctuates the silence in Waheed’s Restaurant in the heart of Kabul.

As the diners dunk pieces of hot and crispy naan into bowls of freshly cooked chinaki, or mutton stew, waiters can be seen craning their necks, looking for empty tables to accommodate those queuing outside the entrance.

The aroma of the traditional Afghan dish — made with lamb chops, lentils, onions, tomatoes, herbs, and spices — draws people to the restaurant every day, Abdul Waheed, the owner, told Arab News, adding that it is the least he can do to keep an authentic “Afghan tradition alive.”

“Other dishes like pizza, kabab and rice are much easier and take less time to cook,” the 43-year-old Waheed said. “But we are taking the trouble to keep the tradition alive despite getting the low returns on the dish compared with other meals.”

Chinaki is also known as teapot soup because of the vessel it was once cooked in — a teapot.

With a recipe dating back 150 years, the local dish is served by only a handful of Kabul restaurants and is one of the few remaining on menu lists as cafes and restaurants offering foreign cuisines take over.

Typical chinaki is cooked in small chinaware teapots, rarely available in markets and hard to mend after repeated use. Since the taste of the dish varies if cooked in a metal pot, customers are always on the hunt for restaurants that prepare the dish in the traditional style.

Depending on the number of pots, one or two cooks stand for hours to constantly stir the soup with a wooden spoon, adding a small amount of water at regular intervals to keep it from burning.

The arduous cooking process means the dish is cooked only once a day and served at lunchtime. Regular customers, however, know exactly what time to walk in.

“I come here at least four times a month,” Sher Ahmad said. “I like chinaki, it is my favorite food. I know people who have heard of this restaurant in other parts of the country and come to try it when they visit Kabul.”

Waheed said he hopes to keep his familiy tradition alive for as long as possible.

“I inherited the restaurant from my grandfather and father. We have been serving people for nearly 70 years,” he said.

The eatery is located on the second floor of a ramshackle building in an old and bustling part of a bazaar which was demolished by the British forces in the 19th century and destroyed again during fighting in the 1990s.

Waheed’s customers include MPs and government officials accompanied by armed guards for protection.

A former interior minister, Amruallah Saleh, who often travels in an armored vehicle, has been to Waheed’s restaurant twice, according to Feraidoon, one of the cooks.

“He liked it a lot and on one occasion ate twice in one day,” Feraidoon said.

Women wishing to eat rely on takeaways since there is no section for them in the restaurant — another sign of a male-dominated society.

In upmarket parts of Kabul, expensive restaurants have increased in the past 20 years, especially with the arrival of foreign troops and aid workers who brought along dishes from their countries of origin.

Abdullah Ansar, a manager for the Cafeteria, a leading restaurant in the city, said that although his menu features more than 300 foreign-style meals, local dishes were still a favorite for both Afghans and expatriates.

With more than four decades’ experience in the industry, Ansar has been host to regional and world leaders, including former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Ansar said he relies on local products, but also imports ingredients such as cheese, fish, prawns, olive oil and canned fruit from the UAE.

“Afghanistan has delicious local dishes. If peace comes, tourists will come here, and the restaurant and hotel industry will further flourish,” he said.

But like many Afghans, Ansar does not know when the fighting will end and stability will return to the country.