What do Olympic athletes and cancer survivors have in common? More than you might think.
In a recent episode of the Crackin Backs podcast, we had the immense privilege of hosting Dr. Riggs Klika, a name that resonates loudly within the intricate corridors of exercise oncology. The parallels he draws between training elite athletes and aiding cancer patients is nothing short of revolutionary.
Olympic Beginnings and A Mother's Plight
Dr. Klika's journey into this realm is as intriguing as it is inspiring. An encounter in 2004 with the mother of one of his US Olympic athletes, who had been advised against lifting more than 3lbs due to her breast cancer, set him on a quest. Recognizing the gaps in available research and the often misguided advice given to cancer patients about exercise, he began to adapt athletic training principles to the unique needs and challenges faced by those battling cancer.
From Taboo to Mainstream
Over the years, the perspective on exercise during cancer treatment has dramatically shifted. Historically deemed harmful or unnecessary, there's now a burgeoning field known as “exercise oncology.” Research has illuminated the potential for exercise to aid in drug metabolism, mitigate treatment side effects, and enhance overall well-being. A significant milestone came when Dr. Kathryn H. Schmitz's paper on lymphedema and exercise in breast cancer patients was published in JAMA. Dr. Klika himself weighed in on this topic in a 2021 ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal publication, suggesting a nuanced and positive relationship between HIIT (high intensity interval training) and cancer.
Exercise: A New Lens for Viewing Cancer
By comparing the physiological toll of cancer to the overtraining effects in world-class athletes, Dr. Klika found astounding similarities. With this understanding, he fashioned exercise programs for cancer patients that didn't just aim for better health, but optimal fitness, taking cues from blood counts and the type of treatments patients were undergoing.
Perhaps one of the most eye-opening revelations Dr. Klika shared is the aging effect of cancer treatments, especially on women with breast cancer. This knowledge has reshaped his approach, incorporating weight training to counteract issues like reduced bone density and lymphedema.
Global Perspectives and Breaking Myths
Dr. Klika's research has taken him far and wide, allowing him to draw parallels and contrasts between the U.S. and European treatment models. While U.S. institutions might provide top-notch medical care, European models often emphasize post-treatment fitness regimens spearheaded by cardiologists.
But the overarching theme, regardless of geography or treatment method, is that movement and exercise are paramount. As Dr. Klika stated unequivocally, remaining sedentary is a surefire way to hasten one's decline. While exercise isn't a panacea, its benefits, especially when integrated with cancer treatment, are undeniable.
The Power of an Extra Month
Perhaps one of the most touching moments of our podcast was when Dr. Klika highlighted Dr. Lee Jones's study. The revelation that stage four lung cancer patients who trained lived roughly a month longer than those who didn't might seem minimal to some, but to those grappling with the terminal nature of their disease, every moment is priceless.
The story of Dr. Riggs Klika is a testament to the power of questioning, researching, and persistently seeking better solutions. As listeners and readers, we're reminded of the potent role exercise plays in not just combating disease but enhancing our quality of life.
So, if there’s one takeaway from this captivating conversation, it's this: while you're contemplating life, health, and the universe, make sure you stand up and move.
Tune in to the Crackin Backs podcast to delve deeper into this conversation with Dr. Riggs Klika and open your mind to the transformative power of exercise in the world of cancer survivorship.