Exercise and cancer prevention/rehabilitation

Posted By  
07/09/2020
15:00 PM

Did you know that cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Australia? According to the latest research, one in two Australian men and women will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 85! For those going through cancer treatment or recovering from treatment, the last thing they may be thinking about is exercise. But what if we told you that participating in exercise before, during and after treatment, can improve the adverse physical and psychological effects associated with cancer?

The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA), is the peak national body encompassing health professionals working in cancer research, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care. COSA recommends exercise be embedded within standard care and utilised as adjunct therapy for those undergoing cancer treatment. Contrary to the beliefs of many, research has shown that exercise or physical activity is a safe and effective intervention throughout the various stages of cancer treatment. The good news, even if you were not active prior to your diagnosis, you can still reap the benefits! So what are the benefits of exercise and how can it preserve/improve and reduce various aspects of an individual's life?

Preserve or improve:

Muscle mass, strength, power

Cardiorespiratory fitness

Physical function

Physical activity levels

Range of motion

Immune function

Chemotherapy completion rates/adherence rates

Body image, self esteem, mood

Bone health 

Energy levels and quality of life

 

Reduce:

Treatment related side effects: nausea, fatigue, pain, lymphoedema

Intensity and number of symptoms reported

Duration of hospitalisation

Psychological and emotional stress

Depression and anxiety 

Risk of cancer recurrence and mortality 

Risk of comorbidities: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis 

 

What type of exercise is best and how much should you be doing?

Guidelines state individual’s should progress towards and once achieved, maintain 150minutes of moderate or 75minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity each week. Furthermore, to help maintain muscle mass, resistance training (think weights) should also be completed 2-3 times per week. But the most important thing is to start! Find something that you enjoy or have always wanted to do and get out there and give it a go. Research shows that individuals who remain active throughout their treatment, experience fewer adverse effects and improve long term health outcomes. It is also important to remember that if you are new to an exercise program, start out slow and gradually increase or seek the guidance from our friendly Physiotherapists or Exercise Physiologist.