Benefits of Physical Activity for Cancer Patients and Survivors 

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Get Moving!

Other than a nutritious diet and the avoidance of smoking, physical activity is one of the most studied aspects of a healthy lifestyle.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the nation’s go-to resource for nutrition and health, recommends 30 minutes of exercise daily or 150 minutes per week for good overall health.  It is no secret that physical activity can help with weight loss and weight maintenance, but that’s just the beginning! Here are a few ways regular physical activity can improve your body, mind and spirit.

Heart Health

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America and regular physical activity, from low to high intensity, has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. It has also been shown to lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  In fact, increasing your exercise is one of the main changes you can make to improve your good (or HDL) cholesterol.  If you already have heart disease, make sure you check with your physician about what forms of exercise would be the best choice for you.

Reduce Cancer Risk

Recent research has concluded that regular, moderate exercise, categorized as just 30 minutes daily, can reduce breast, endometrial and colorectal cancer risk.  Not only that, but regular physical activity can reduce fat stores and obesity, which are linked to 13 (13!!) different types of cancer, including prostate, ovarian and pancreatic cancers. Even cancer patients and survivors can benefit; studies show that physical activity can boost the immune system during and after treatment, which leads to an improved quality of life.

Get Strong Bones (and Joints)

Research has shown that cardio exercise, such as brisk walking, in combination with strength training, can prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.  Osteoporosis is not just something you need to worry about when you get older. Steps can be taken today to prevent bone loss in the future such as regular physical activity and adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D. Furthermore, low to moderate exercise can help those with arthritis minimize pain thereby improving their quality of life.

Strengthen your Mind

Want to concentrate harder at work and sleep better at night? Exercise! Regular moderate exercise can keep your brain sharp; improving concentration, reasoning skills and overall brain function. What else helps improve brain function? Good sleep.  Physical activity promotes better sleep quality, both of which can help you think and concentrate all throughout the day.  Just like exercising your brain is beneficial for your mind (think: crossword puzzles), exercising your body gives you the same benefit plus some!

…and your Spirit
Exercise can do wonders for your mood and psyche.  When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which boost your spirits for up 24 hours after exercising. This “runner’s high” promotes happiness and can reduce negative body talk. Research has shown that regular physical activity can also decrease your risk of depression and reduce stress and anxiety.  So not only is exercise essential to a healthy body, it helps promote a healthy and happy spirit as well.

Ready to Get Started?

When you begin a new exercise routine, don’t overdo it.  Aim for 15 minutes daily and then work up from there until you reach the goal of 30 minutes daily. You can even break up the activity into 10-minute increments throughout the day.  In fact, research has shown that breaking it up will burn more calories and boost your energy all day long.  Another rule when starting exercise- have fun!  Make sure you choose an activity you enjoy doing and will continue week in and week out.

So now you know the benefits of physical activity and how to get started.  What about fueling for exercise? What you eat before and after an activity is just as important as the exercise itself.  Prior to exercise, choose a light snack that is high in carbohydrates for energy with some protein to prevent hunger.   Here are some ideas: • Peanut butter and a half of a banana • Berries with a handful of nuts • Avocado toast • Fruit smoothie

This smoothie recipe from our cookbook, The Meals to Heal Cookbook, would be an ideal choice for a pre-exercise snack.  The blueberries, banana and almond milk provide healthy carbohydrates for energy while the peanut butter provides protein to keep you full and promote muscle healing.  Feel free to add the protein powder if you are drinking it as a meal replacement.

Blueberry Nut Butter Smoothie  


• ¾ cup frozen blueberries

• 1 cup leafy greens

• 1 Tb peanut butter

• ¾ cup almond milk

• ½ banana

• 2 Medjool dates, pitted

• 1 scoop protein powder (optional)

• ½ cup ice
Preparation: Combine all ingredients and blend.


As we all know, physical activity is a major factor in living a healthy and fulfilling life.  All forms of exercise are beneficial; whether it is jogging, walking, weight training or biking–lace up your tennis shoes to promote a stronger body, sharper mind and calming spirit.

Recipe excerpted from The Meals to Heal Cookbook by Susan Bratton and Jessica Iannotta, MS, RD, CSO, CDN. Copyright © 2016. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.



If you enjoyed this recipe there are plenty more in our Meals to Heal Cookbook – written to meet the unique needs of cancer patients and caregivers and offering 150 recipes to make eating less stressful, more convenient, and simply more enjoyable. Created by oncology-credentialed registered dietitians, these delicious, nourishing, easy-to-prepare dishes are full of the nutrients you need to maintain strength during treatment. Loaded with essential nutrition info and recipes coded by common symptoms and side effects (including fatigue, nausea, digestive issues, mouth sores, taste and smell aversion, and others).


Meals to Heal


Susan Bratton

Susan Bratton

Photography by Peter Hurley

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Susan founded Savor Health in 2011 after a career on Wall Street where she represented and focused exclusively on early and growth stage healthcare services and insurance companies. During her tenure on Wall Street, Susan was a member of the healthcare groups at firms including Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Robertson Stephens and Wasserstein, Perella & Co. Susan brings to Savor Health over 25 years of industry experience in healthcare and business as well as expertise in strategy, finance and management. She is actively involved in a number of industry associations including Women Business Leaders in Healthcare. She also serves on the Advisory Board of HCap, the national leading venue for healthcare providers and capital to meet, and is the Secretary for Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee. In addition to her role as CEO of Savor Health, Susan speaks nationally on the role of proper nutrition in the cancer patient at industry association meetings as well as advocacy group summits and other oncology meetings.  Her work in oncology extends beyond Savor Health and speaking on the role of nutrition to her volunteer work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in pediatrics and as a runner for Fred’s Team to raise money for research at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Susan earned a B.A. from Duke University and M.B.A. from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.


Jessica A. lannotta

Jessica Iannotta

MS, RD, CSO, CDN, Chief Operating Officer

Jessica is a registered dietitian and certified specialist in oncology nutrition (CSO). She studied nutrition at Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. She obtained her Master’s degree through the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Jessica has worked in inpatient and outpatient oncology settings since 2001 in the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Jessica is in charge of all operations including clinical and culinary operations ranging from menu development to evidence-based website content, relationships with registered dietitians and social workers and developing processes and protocols for intake, management and outcomes analysis of patients.


Savor Health is a trusted cancer nutrition expert that patients, caregivers and healthcare enterprises rely on for safe, effective and evidence-based nutrition information and programs. Savor Health is working to put an end to the one third of cancer deaths due to severe malnutrition by providing cancer patients and survivors with individualized disease-specific nutrition solutions through nutritional counseling, menu planning, customized recipes and a 150 recipe cookbook – Meals to Heal.


To learn more about Savor Health please visit


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