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Gentle yoga sessions may improve cancer survival rates


prof. Mustian’s study included an accessible and gentle form of Hatha yoga – not the more strenuous Bikram, Vinyasa, Ashtanga or “hot” yoga – that was customized for each patient.

The team found biological signs in their phase three randomized clinical trial that yoga was linked to a calming of the immune system and that the individuals had fewer harmful chemicals in their blood produced by a confused immune system.

A separate study of nearly 3,000 Brazilian cancer patients found that people over 60 who are active (at least a 30-minute walk five days a week) are one-fifth less likely to die within six months than their sedentary peers.

Elderly cancer patients were followed for six months each, and a quarter of those who did not exercise died during the study period. In contrast, only ten percent of active patients died. So data shows that those who were active were 18 percent less likely to die. Dr. Jurema Telles de Oliveira Lima, of Brazil’s Instituto de Medicina Integral Professor Fernando Figueira, who led the study, said just three weeks of exercise “could be enough to alter cancer risk.”

Change in mindset

Prof Mustian says there has been a shift in mindset among scientists over the past 20 years with regard to how non-clinical interventions such as exercise are viewed. At the turn of the century, she said, there was a tendency to think that cancer patients should take it easy and there was cynicism to recommend yoga and exercise. However, she believes oncologists have “got into it” over the past two decades as more data support physical activity and its beneficial role in cancer treatments.

Dr. Melissa Hudson, a leading cancer survival expert at St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, said: “I think a message that oncologists need to tell their patients is that it’s important for them to be as active as possible, based on current symptoms.” Dr Paul Mulholland, medical oncologist and brain tumor expert at UCL Hospitals said he would “100% recommend” yoga and meditation to his patients. “If they don’t want to do yoga, they can do Tai-Chi or something like that because it’s actually very good for patients,” he told reporters in Chicago.

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