The benefits of being active during and after cancer treatment

The Journey – Cancer and Recovery

Following a debilitating chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. I met friends for a chat and a coffee at the local gym. As they left to go to their classes I felt alone and wished that I could join them. But having recently finished gruelingly chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments for breast cancer, I realised that I didn’t have the confidence or knowledge to return to exercise.
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Cancer and its treatments can cause physical changes, and dealing with these is often stressful. Being more physically active can help you cope with and recover from some of these changes.

Why be more active?

When you’re living with or after cancer, physical activity can help you make a positive change to your life. You may be a little nervous about building up your activity levels, particularly if it’s for the first time or if you haven’t been very active for a while. You may feel too tired or just not know where to begin.

There are many ways you can become more active. Any amount of physical activity is better than none at all. If you have or have had cancer, being physically active is safe and has lots of benefits. Knowing about these can give you the motivation to get started and keep going. Being active can also help you feel that you’re doing something positive for yourself.

Physical activity varies, from day-to-day activities such as walking or gardening, to more structured exercise programmes that you might find in a gym. How much and what type of activities you choose to do will depend on your preferences, your situation and level of fitness. But even the smallest increase in your physical activity can improve your quality of life.

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Sport Psychology: encouragement boosts performance

How encouraging athletes boosts performance

Offering verbal encouragement to athletes attempting maximal effort is entirely instinctive. Indeed it is almost impossible to imagine a situation in which coaches, parents, fellow athletes and friends would stand silent on the sidelines, instead of shouting out such original motivators as: ‘keep it going’, ‘go for it’, ‘push it’ and other such statements.

But what evidence do we have that this form of verbal encouragement actually works? Very little, according to a team of US researchers, who decided to test the value of verbal encouragement in a controlled study.

They explain: ‘Although the use of encouraging statements is a ubiquitous feature of maximal exercise testing, few studies have examined the effects of frequency of encouragement on exercise performance. Those that have…have not provided sufficient procedural details to evaluate these effects. Furthermore, no study has systematically varied the frequency of verbal encouragement. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of frequency of verbal encouragement on exercise performance.’

Water Therapy Exercise Program

Water therapy exercise programs consist of a variety of treatments and exercises that are done in a pool and may be specifically designed to provide relief of low back pain or neck pain. These exercises also serve to condition and strengthen muscles to help avoid future recurrences of back pain.

Water therapy exercise is especially helpful in cases where a land-based exercise program is not possible due to the intensity of pain, decreased bone density, disability or other factors. As such, water therapy is a versatile exercise and is particularly good for people with conditions such as:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Advanced osteoporosis (with susceptibility to and/or pain from fracture)
  • Muscle strain or tears

In addition to those conditions, water therapy is frequently recommended as one form of exercise therapy to treat those with diabetes as well as individuals with high blood pressure. Both conditions can improve and become more manageable with aquatic exercise.

All of these conditions can make it uncomfortable or painful to exercise on a hard or even padded surface, or while standing. Water provides a much gentler, welcoming environment.

British Heart Foundation Hope Tank

At the moment, there’s no cure for a broken heart. Once your heart muscle is damaged by a heart attack, it can never fully recover. But there is hope.

The British Heart Foundation are funding Dr Tim Chico and his team at the MRC Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics. Here they explain the science behind our Appeal.

We need to spend £50 million to fund groundbreaking research that could begin to literally ‘mend broken hearts’ in as little as ten years time.

Your support can give hope to hundreds of thousands of people across the UK.

The zebrafish can heal its own heart. By adding a zebrafish to the Hope Tank you could help heal ours too.

Dive into their hope tank
British Heart Foundation have built a beautiful digital aquarium to raise awareness of their life-saving research. Find out more about this groundbreaking science and create your own zebrafish at

Mindfulness in Sport and Exercise

All athletes have experienced a meditative state worthy of a Buddha. Sometimes athletic activities pull you into a natural state of mindfulness. Sport becomes a form of meditation when you engage it with your full attention. Understanding mindfulness and mindfulness meditation can help to bring you closer to the experience of sport. This phenomenon can be called sportsamadhi (recall that samadhi is the Sanskrit term for “meditative concentration”). This type of focused and absorbed concentration is likely familiar to anyone who has slid down a snow-covered mountain at high speed, pushed the pain barrier on a long-distance run, felt at one with their kayak as it shot a set of rapids, or ripped a huge wave on a surfboard. The talking mind becomes quiet and fully absorbed in the action of the moment. You are not lost in thoughts about the past, worries, or planning for the future. You are not telling stories about the activity or anything else. You are present. There is a steady living presence in the fullness of the moment. This is the state of mindfulness. Mindfulness can be thrilling even if the activity is rather ordinary.

Non-gravity sports such as road running, road biking, and swimming offer a ready opportunity to full body awareness. Instead of a gravity-induced absorption, the immersion in the present moment includes the entire body. Take running, for instance, where you can experience a moment-to-moment connection with your total body experience, even when this experience includes pain and discomfort. The challenge is to stay with the experience at the level of sensation. That is, experiencing it as a pattern of gross and pointed sensations instead of labeling it “pain.” However, the mind has a tendency to move you out of the moment of experiencing sensation and perception and to start evaluating and judging the experience. Ultimately, you start to tell stories about the experience: “I can’t take this anymore.” When you can be mindful of the present, the artificial distinctions between mind and body disappear and yield to an awareness of being.


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by Arnie Kozak, Ph.D.

Athlete Welfare & Development by Melanie Lang Lecturer Edge Hill University

Decades of research indicates the benefits of participating in sport. As well as being fun, sport has the potential to positively affect health and fitness (Bertelloni et al., 2006); increase bodily awareness and self esteem (Engh, 2002); and teach rules, respect, sportsmanship and social interaction (Donnelly, 1993; David, 1999; Myers & Barrett, 2002). However, recent research is also highlighting the potential for negative outcomes through playing sport, such as disordered eating (Sundgot-Borgen, 1994; Byrne & McLean, 2002; Sundgot-Borgen et al., 2003; Kerr et al., 2006) and physical, emotional and sexual abuse (Brackenridge, 1997, 2001; Brackenridge & Kirby, 1997; Donnelly, 1999; Gervis & Dunn, 2004). Indeed, modern organised sport has been described as “an environment in which the most respectable aspects of sports, such as its educative scope, sportsmanship and physical and mental well-being, are seriously threatened” (David, 1999, p.53).

Another issue that’s receiving increased academic and scientific interest is training intensity (see for example, Tofler et al., 1996; World Health Organisation, 1998; IOC Medical Commission, 2004). An increasing number of sports are adopting – and in many cases are required to adopt – athlete-development plans such as the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model which, although not supported by a meaningful scientific evidence base (Collins, 2009), advocate ten years of training for elite success (Balyi & Hamilton, 2004). This is resulting in athletes specialising in one sport at younger and younger ages (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2000) and training longer and harder than ever before and from a younger age (Sharma et al., 2003), putting them at increased risk of physical and mental ‘burnout’ (Hollander et al., 1995), overuse injuries (Wolstencroft, 2002) and dropout (Salguero et al., 2003).

Yet as well as developing athletes to the best of their ability in a safe and healthy manner, sports organisations in the UK have a legal duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of athletes (Department for Education and Skills, 2004; Child Protection in Sport Unit, 2005). Understanding and promoting participant development is one crucial element to this. As Bailey et al. (2010) note, participant development models are best when they are holistic in nature and “address the complexity of interaction between different domains of functioning and offering clear practical guidelines and directions for further investigation and development, while also providing and empirical and theoretical justification for these statements” (Bailey et al., 2010, p.3). Consequently, Bailey et al., (2010, p.4) suggest that coaches and clubs centralise participant development and develop interdisciplinary research approaches, drawing on social, psychological and biological disciplines in order to benefit athletes.



American Academy of Pediatrics (2000) Intensive training and sports specialisation in young athletes.  Pediatrics. 106 (1), pp.154-157.

Bailey, R, Collins, D., Ford, P., MacNamara, A., Toms, M. & Pearce, G. (2010) Participant Development in Sport: AN Academic Review. Leeds, sports coach UK.

Balyi, I. & Hamilton, A. (2004) Long Term Athlete Development: Trainability in Childhood and Adolescence. Windows of Opportunity, Optimal Trainability. Victoria, B. C., National Coaching Institute British Columbia & Advanced Training and Performance.

Bertelloni, S., Ruggeri, S. & Baroncelli, G. I. (2006) Effects of sports training in adolescence on growth, puberty and bone health. Gynecological Endocrinology. 22 (11), pp.605-612.

Brackenridge, C. H. (1997) “He owned me basically”: Women’s experience of sexual abuse in sport. International Review for the Sociology of Sport. 32 (2), pp.115-130.

Brackenridge, C. H. (2001) Spoilsports: Understanding and Preventing Sexual Exploitation in Sport. London, Routledge.

Brackenridge, C., & Kirby, S. (1997) Playing safe? Assessing the risk of sexual abuse to elite child athletes. International Review of the Sociology of Sport. 32 (4), pp.407-418.

Byrne, S. & McLean, N. (2002) Elite athletes: Effects of the pressure to be thin.  Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 5 (2), pp.80-94.

CPSU (2005) Strategy for Safeguarding Children and Young People in Sport 2006-2012. Leicester, CPSU.

Collins, D. (2009) Researching Youth Sport Conference, Brunel University.

David, P. (1999) Children’s rights and sports – Young athletes and competitive sports: Exploit and exploitation. The International Journal of Children’s Rights. 7, pp.53-81.

DfES (2004) The Children Act 2004. London, HMSO.

Donnelly, P. (1993) Problems associated with youth involvement in high-performance sport. In: Cahill, B. R. & Pearl, A. J. (eds.) Intensive Participation in Children’s Sports. Champaign, IL., Human Kinetics. pp.95-126.

Donnelly, P. (1997) Child labour, sport labour: Applying child labour laws to sport. International Review for the Sociology of Sport. 32 (4), pp.389-406.

Engh, F. (2002) Why Johnny Hates Sports: Why Organised Youth Sports are Failing Our Children and What We Can Do About It. New York, Square One.

Gervis, M. & Dunn, N. (2004) The emotional abuse of elite child athletes by their coaches. Child Abuse Review. 13, pp.215-223.

Hollander, E. B., Meyers, M. C. & LeUnes, A. (1995) Psychological factors associated with over-training: Implications for youth sport coaches. Journal of Sport Behaviour. 18, pp.3-20.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) Medical Commission (2004) Consensus Statement on Training the Elite Child Athlete [Internet]. Available from: [Accessed: 04/01/2008].

Kerr, G. A., Berman, E. & De Souza, M. J. (2006) Disordered eating in women’s gymnastics: Perspectives of athletes, coaches, parents, and judges. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. 18, pp.28-43.

Myers, J. & Barrett, B. (2002) In at the Deep End: A New Insight for all Sports from Analysis of Child Abuse Within Swimming. London, NSPCC.

Salguero, A., Gonzalez-Boto, R., Tuero, C. & Marquez, S. (2003) Identification of dropout reasons in young competitive swimmers. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 43 (4), pp.530-534.

Sharma, P., Luscombe, K. L. & Maffulli, N. (2003) Sports injuries in children. Trauma. 5, pp.245-259.

Sundgot-Borgen, J. (1994) Risk and trigger factors for the development of eating disorders in female elite athletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 26, pp.414-419.

Sundgot-Borgen, J., Fasting, K., Brackenridge, C., Torstveit, M. K. & Berglund, B. (2003) Sexual harassment and eating disorders in female elite athletes: A controlled study. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 13, pp.330-335.

Tofler, R., Stryer, B. K., Micheli, L. J. & Herman, L. R. (1996) Physical and emotional problems of elite female gymnasts. New England Journal of Medicine. 335 (4), pp.281-283.

Wolstencroft, E. (2002) Talent Identification and Development: An Academic Review. Edinburgh, Sport Scotland.

World Health Organisation (WHO) (1998) Sports and children: Consensus statement on organised sport for children.  Bulletin of the World Health Organisation. 76 (5), pp.445-447.

Melanie Lang