Exercise called "wonder drug" for cancer patients:What can it do?

One of the best ways to prevent depression? Exercise."Exercise appears to be an antidepressant in its own right and may act like an antidote to stress," says Dr. Gerard Sanacora, professor of psychiatry at Yale University and director of the Yale Depression Research Program, in New Haven, Conn. A 2009 analysis found that exercise lightens depression as well as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or antidepressants. A resistance and aerobic combo seems better than aerobic exercise alone. Workouts with a meditative focus, such as tai chi and yoga, also help, according to a 2008 study.More from Health.com: 10 ways to fight depression for free istockphoto

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(CBS) The latest "wonder drug" for cancer isn't a drug at all - but exercise. That's what a British cancer charity had to say in a new report detailing the benefits of exercise for cancer patients.

"Cancer patients would be shocked if they knew just how much of a benefit physical activity could have on their recovery and long term health," Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said in a written statement.

Macmillan's "Move More" report looked at 60 studies and surveyed over 400 health professionals to show how important exercise was to cancer treatment.

The report said doing recommended levels of 150 minutes per week could reduce a breast cancer patient's risk of recurrence or dying by 40 percent and a prostate cancer patient's risk of dying by 30 percent. Exercise also helps curtail side effects like fatigue, depression, osteoporosis, and heart disease for all cancer patients. More physical activity can also reduce the risk of colon cancer by as much as 50 percent, the report said.

"'It doesn't need to be anything too strenuous, doing the gardening, going for a brisk walk or a swim all count," Devane said.

Macmillan's chief medical officer, oncologist Dr. Jane Maher, said in a written statement that health care professionals need to undergo a "cultural change" and make exercise an integral part of cancer care. The report found over half of general practitioners, oncologists, and nurses don't tell their patients the benefits of physical exercise. Maher once counted herself as one of these uninformed physicians.

"The advice that I would have previously have given to one of my patients would have been to 'take it easy'," Maher said. "This has now changed significantly."

Over 11 million Americans have cancer in the U.S. The American Cancer Society also recommends maintaining an active lifestyle to reduce cancer risk.

To learn more about how staying fit could fight cancer, visit the American Cancer Society website.

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