HERSHEY, Pa. — A group of Penn State College of Medicine faculty are bringing a different kind of medicine to cancer patients and survivors: exercise. The Oncology, Nutrition and Exercise (ONE) Group has launched a new website that will help keep cancer patients and survivors, who are immunocompromised, safe at home during the COVID-19 pandemic while also helping them boost their health.
The website features more than 50 videos of exercise demonstrations for those who are living with and beyond cancer. The group is led by Kathryn Schmitz, professor of public health sciences, who said the pandemic has been tough for cancer patients and that the new site gives them a resource to improve their health during a time when their treatments may be on hold for safety reasons.
“Cancer patients and survivors are immunocompromised and at increased risk for developing and having poor outcomes from COVID-19,” Schmitz said. “Research indicates that exercise may improve their immune capacity. This website gives them a resource to do that without leaving the comfort and safety of their homes.”
Schmitz, past president of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), founded the Moving Through Cancer initiative within the ACSM to raise awareness about the importance of exercise during cancer treatment and help support doctors in advising their patients on those benefits. She led an international team of researchers who published exercise recommendations for cancer patients and survivors in fall 2019. They found that exercise can help improve fatigue, anxiety, depression, sleep, physical function, bone health and quality of life during and after cancer treatment. It can also help improve survival after a breast, colon or prostate cancer diagnosis.
The ONE Group’s mobile-friendly website features a variety of videos that provide step-by-step fitness instructions suitable for a range of fitness levels. Also included is a sitting exercise program for patients who need it. Videos feature warm-up activities, individual and partner exercises, and workouts that target specific areas of the body. Exercises aim to increase mobility, improve balance, enhance flexibility and strengthen individuals.
“Every person will require different kinds of exercise to meet their health needs,” Schmitz said. “If oncologists or patients have questions or are unsure what they should do to get started, they can email us for assistance.”
In addition to the exercise resources, including a ‘workout of the week,’ adult cancer patients and survivors can download user-friendly patient guides on topics related to nutrition, mental health and wellness. The website also contains information on a variety of clinical research studies led by Schmitz and other faculty members that seek to better understand the role of diet and physical activity among people who have or have survived cancer.
The ONE Group is led by Schmitz and offers undergraduate research internships, postdoctoral fellowships and training programs for individuals interested in pursuing careers in exercise oncology. The team consists of experts from the following Penn State departments: Public Health Sciences, Radiation Oncology, Kinesiology, Surgery, Medicine, Pediatrics and Biomedical Engineering. Core and associated faculty include:
“It is the mission of the Moving Through Cancer initiative that all people living with and beyond cancer will be assessed, advised, referred and connected to appropriate exercise programming by 2030,” Schmitz said. “This website is part of reaching toward that mission.”