My post below was prompted by a reply by swiftbrook to my response in the Watch and Wait - how do you cope?
Apologies for those who have heard me on this before, but it has been a while since we've specifically discussed exercise and CLL and we've got lots of new members that may be interested.
I for one would be very interested in further research on exercise and time to treatment. I seem to recall that a doctor in Scotland was going to do a bigger study on exercise and leukaemia - does anyone know what became of this?
I suspect that if an individual is really fit and well, then that can fitness and good health can assist the body to manage for longer with less obvious symptoms than someone that isn't as fit and well. I've heard of athletes crediting their fitness for delaying progression, but this is anecdotal and we really do need to do specific studies. What little research that has been done definitely shows reductions in fatigue and improved mood and better tolerance of chemotherapy.
Personally, prior to my immune system rapidly succumbing to SLL/CLL, I used to regularly commute to work by cycling, clocking up about 5,000km a year. I didn't leisurely ride either; I'd really push it and often beat the commuter bus. From an ignored blood test, I'm pretty confident I had SLL/CLL a couple of years prior to diagnosis and I'd had symptoms for the best part of a decade. I was diagnosed at stage IV (marrow, spleen, node and peripheral blood involvement), but then again it's more common to be diagnosed at a later stage with SLL than with CLL as it is more hidden in the earlier stages. However, other than afternoon fatigue and the occasional night sweats, I was otherwise well. Hence I had a personal suspicion that staying fit delayed my time to diagnosis and that it was a worthwhile goal to regain what I could of my fitness.
With my reduced immunity at diagnosis, I contracted Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and at the worst of it was struggling to walk a few 10's of metres without getting puffed and having to stop and rest. As I slowly recovered, I'd find it easy to over do it (felt good when exercising - no warning signs I was overdoing it) and for a long time post CMV, my fitness stagnated because I'd be so flat for a few days after overdoing it.
Locally, our Leukaemia Foundation has an exercise physiologist that supervises gym sessions with customised exercise programs for leukaemia patients. He was a professional footballer that went through a career path change after a lymphoma diagnosis and I've listened through a couple of his presentations on the benefits of exercise for those with cancer. Unfortunately he is based a long way from where I live, so I haven't attended his sessions, but I know some that do and they've found them beneficial. (Also, unfortunately, my immune system isn't up to surviving the challenges of a gym/fitness centre.) Here's a synopsis of his findings:
Irrespective of whether exercise has any specific benefits for CLL beyond those already reported, there's enough evidence that keeping fit provides other worthwhile benefits. It is also very hard to maintain - even for people that are otherwise well. Getting started is the hardest part, but you don't have to do anything much out of the ordinary. Just going for a half hour walk daily is beneficial. There's also increasing evidence that you can benefit more from higher intensity exercise than gentle exercise, so if you are struggling to find time to exercise, just 10 minutes of fast paced walking may do you more good than a 30 minute leisurely walk. You only needs to walk at a brisk enough pace so that talking becomes more difficult.
I'll admit that I don't exercise every day - feeling tired, being unwell, inclement weather, other priorities - there's always a good 'reason' to skip it. But I also know that I feel better if I make the effort and my days are more productive. There are tips to overcome these self inflicted barriers. Some include finding an exercise buddy - that helps both of you keep to a commitment to improve your fitness. Look for incidental exercise opportunities; walk for small journeys rather than taking the car (e.g. to the corner store if it is still there), take the stairs instead of the lifts/escalators, etc.
Perhaps others can share their tips?
The accompanying picture shows a favourite walking target of mine; there's pleasant native vegetation around a waterway that is popular with native water birds including ducks, dusky moorhens, ibis, magpies and the occasional pelican