Our body is fascinating and still full of secrets. We still do not know exactly why one develops cancer, but not the other. But one thing researchers now know: Sports can help stay healthy and prevent cancer. And: Sports can reduce the side effects of an existing cancer diagnosis and increase recovery.
In Kiel, tumor biologist Prof. Susanne Sebens and sports researcher Dr. Thorsten Schmidt drew attention to these findings. At Kiel-Lauf in September, they start with a running group called “Together against cancer” and want to promote more exercise. If you want to actively support the idea, you can simply sign up for the run.
To run? Just five years ago, Susanne Sebens, 50, would have shaken her head and said, “This is not for me.” Although the biologist regularly went to the gym, she never saw herself as a jogger.
Then came the day when she jerked her thoracic spine off joints and thought she was having a heart attack. “That was when I started walking for the first time,” says the director of the Institute for Experimental Tumor Research.
Running is fun and can be done anywhere, anytime
“It started with five kilometers, and then it quickly went up to ten kilometers.” She notices that it’s fun to run. You are out in the fresh air, you quickly have a sense of accomplishment, and running is always an option. You do not have to stick to fixed times, you do not have to be punctual anywhere, you can just get started whenever you want.
“We have such amazing nature here in Kiel,” excites Susanne Sebens. She was born in Braunschweig and mentions Förde, the Kiel Canal, Projensdorfer Geholz and Schwentine. All areas where running is a lot of fun. She has been holding on to it since the incident five years ago. “I have now motivated many of my employees to try it too.”
Since the running group at UKSH has existed, there have been fewer sick leave
On Tuesdays and Fridays we jog together before work. Then it goes in the winter and summer in the Baltic Sea. “It’s a shame that I have not been scientifically monitored the development of sick days at our department,” she says, laughing. “We feel that sickness absence has been very low since our running group existed.”
Susanne Sebens also studies that running is good for your health. Together with her team, she is trying to identify structures that help improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. And that includes certain sports. “Anyone who moves reduces the side effects of cancer treatment,” she says.
As Department Director and Spokeswoman for KON, she is well connected with many other departments at the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH) and in lively exchanges. KON is the name of the Kiel Network of Cancer Specialists, consisting of the initials of the “Kiel Oncology Network” (www.kon.uni-kiel.de).
She has particularly close contact with sports researcher Dr. Thorsten Schmidt (42), who has his office in the neighboring building. Since 2010, he has been in charge of the so-called “support offers” at UKSH. These are sports activities on campus that are individually tailored to each cancer patient.
These are offered for free for eight weeks. Then the patient can join the affiliated association (VGR am UKSH) and continue like this – since the pandemic also online. “We offer not only rehabilitation sports, but also normal exercise courses,” says Thorsten Schmidt.
Cancer: Exercise helps reduce side effects
“After a cancer diagnosis, people used to say: I’m sick now and need to rest,” says the sports researcher, who is himself an avid runner. But it has long since been rejected. “Exercise definitely helps reduce side effects.”
Those who receive chemotherapy often suffer from a number of limitations. This includes loss of quality of life, signs of fatigue (tiredness), anxiety and depression, but also numbness in the arms and legs.
Balance exercises help against tingling hands and feet
Amazingly, balance exercises help against the latter, which Thorsten Schmidt and his team from Kiel found out. Exercises on the vibrating plate or with vibrating dumbbells are extremely effective here, says the expert. “But you can also practice standing on one leg at home.” Stand on one leg for 20 seconds – for example when brushing your teeth – and then change.
“Every type of cancer is different,” says Thorsten Schmidt, “and each person is individual. Together we will see what works best and what helps.” But movement helps everyone equally, which is why Susanne Sebens and Thorsten Schmidt contacted Rainer Ziplinsky from “Zippel’s World of Runners”.
Together with cancer patients, colleagues and staff, the two Kiel researchers now want to start the Kiel Race on 11 September under the motto “Together against cancer”. Everyone can participate regardless of diagnosis. Thorsten Schmidt is confident: “Every step you take is good for you and helps your health.”
Anyone who wants to join the group “Together against Cancer” at Kielløbet can register by sending an e-mail to Thorsten Schmidt ([email protected]). Further information: www.uksh.de/uccsh