Movement is medicine for the immune system.
Current societies face several health epidemics:
obesity, diabetes, stress, depression, chronic pain, fatigue, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and the list goes on and on. Research and practical experience show that regular movement can benefit all these conditions.
The Old Paradigm
Exercise, exercise, exercise….it seems like we are inundated with reminders all the time, we must exercise.
The term exercise is often interpreted to mean we must go to the gym and workout or run every day. We hear and see in marketing ads and articles everywhere that in order to age well and stay healthy, we need to exercise and be active. But what does that even mean?
Start right now by chucking the word exercise, with all its connotations of no pain, no gain, or that we need to “go to the gym” for an hour three times a week or that we need to put on the latest and greatest high tech cushioning running shoes or wear gadgets or watches and download some magical app. This is all marketing of an old paradigm, a programmed way of thinking.
So, what is really important and necessary in order to stay healthy? In particular, what can you do to regain health when faced with a cancer diagnosis?
A New Way of Thinking – Movement
At An Oasis of Healing, we have introduced a new way of thinking about “exercise”, and we teach this method to all our patients who participate in our Comprehensive Cancer Care program. We call this new method Movement. It is a revolutionary way to incorporate movement and playfulness into your day which doesn’t require going to a gym or any fancy equipment or gadgets. Nature designed the perfect equipment — your own body!
Moving is what matters. Playing is what matters. Even the smallest movements add up. Moving helps activate various muscle groups which in turn contribute to enhance the immune system. It is not about a specific exercise; its just pure and simple movement. And there are so many ways to incorporate movement into your daily life.
Why is Movement Important for the Immune System?
NK Cell activity and Myokines
Walking upstairs has been shown to have an immediate effect on the immune system. Seventy seconds of walking stairs lead to a 6-fold increase in the activity and function of NK cells. Natural killer cells, as the name implies, are one of the immune system’s key lines of defense in immunology.
Furthermore, when contracted skeletal muscle releases myokines. Contraction happens every time you move. These myokines such as IL 15 and IL 6 can increase NK cell activity and function. Now, this is where it gets really fascinating and excitingl When these myokines, IL15 and IL6, are combined with epinephrine there is also an increase in CD8 T cell activity — the most powerful effector cells in the anticancer immune response. And what stimulates epinephrine (adrenalin) release? Movement!
Brilliant! Our bodies are just brilliant machines perfectly designed by nature to help you heal.
Inflammation causes various kinds of cellular damage. One of the measures of inflammation is a C-reactive protein test. Your liver releases C-reactive
protein into the bloodstream in response to inflammation. What studies have shown, is that resistance training has a positive influence on the immune system in lowering the circulating levels of C-reactive protein. It also affects cytokine production, by reducing the harmful IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF), while at the same time increasing mobilization and proportion of immune cells.
Muscle quality and muscle mass
A decline in muscle function and capacity is one of the hallmarks of cancer. Cancer is associated with a progressive loss of muscle quality and muscle mass (sarcopenia). Weakened muscles mean that fatigue sets in when climbing the stairs, carrying groceries, and playing with your grandchildren. Think of it this way — weakened muscles lead to more inactivity which leads to further deterioration. A decrease in muscle strength and mass has a marked negative effect on glucose metabolism and insulin resistance, which are highly correlated with cancer development and progression.
One of the easiest and noninvasive methods of testing muscle quality is with a Hand Grip Strength Dynamometer. Don’t you think it would be very encouraging to see that number go up on a weekly basis? That is what happens with our approach to movement.
The Solution – Moving Throughout the Day
Most activities of daily living do not have a large oxygen requirement but require functional movement and strength. A primary intervention for cancer
and associated muscle dysfunction is resistance training, as mentioned above.
Resistance training doesn’t have to be with dumbbells and barbells or most importantly it does not have to happen in a gym. Resistance training can be getting up and down from a chair or skipping across a grassy field. Hopping up on the curb and as simple as slowly — very slowly — stepping down from a curb. You can stimulate this resistance training any time you move your body to resist gravity instead of assisting gravity. It can happen in as little as three to five minutes of movement multiple times throughout the day. It all adds up.
Move and be playful.
For most of us, the last time we moved backwards is when we played as kids. Not only does the very simple shoeless backwards dance allow us to playfully move through a different plane of motion, challenging our biomechanics, balance, fascia, and proprioception, it will also change our perspective.
What would happen if you simply stood up, took off our shoes and danced backwards across the floor?
Your immune system would be fired up is response to that movement, laughter, and playfulness!
Our Movement Program at An Oasis Of Healing
When at the center, you will work directly with our Movement Specialist who will prescribe specific movements and guide you based on your individual capabilities and preferences. We now have a very specific dose response curve of a minimum of 150 minutes of movement per week with our patients, so your sessions will be scheduled several times a week.
You will feel your progress, and witness with amazement your evolution and what you can accomplish by the end of the program.
Darren Scherbain, B.A.
Kinesiology Movement Specialist
Growing up in Canada, with a hockey stick in my hand, I loved to spend hours on the rink in freezing temperatures. Summers were spent working out on the farm, at camp, or getting my bike dirty. From an early age, I always felt my happiest when I was playing outside and moving around. This passion for playing and moving guided me into a degree from the University of Winnipeg in Kinesiology.