How can exercise assist throughout my cancer treatment?

Exercise has shown to provide many benefits both during and after cancer treatment. These benefits include:

  • Higher chemotherapy completion rates and increased chemotherapy effectiveness.
    • Exercising both before and during courses of treatment for cancer (such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy) can allow the body to handle and cope with greater amounts of the treatment. This greater capacity to cope with treatment gives patients a greater chance of success in reducing the size and danger of the cancer involved.
  • Reduced side effects from treatment.
    • Appropriately prescribed exercise has the ability to reduce the severity of common side effects from cancer treatment such as nausea and fatigue. Reducing these symptoms can have a huge effect on quality of life and mental health during the course of a cancer treatment.

What type of exercise should I do?

There is evidence to suggest that aerobic, resistance and flexibility exercises all play their part in providing the benefits as mentioned above.

Resistance style exercises help to maintain strength and function for daily activities, aerobic exercise can provide a low-intensity and low-impact way to reduce treatment-related side effects and flexibility exercises such as stretches help to regain and maintain range of movement at joints that may have stiffened due to some treatment types or prolonged sedentary time.

Is there anything I should be wary of?

Due to the many different types and severities of cancer, it is important to consult your GP or Oncologist prior to beginning any exercise program. Some exercise types and intensities may be contraindicated depending on many factors, so it is important to be properly screened.

Once you have the all clear from your GP or specialist, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) will be able to assist you in setting up an exercise program to suit your individual needs and goals. AEP’s have the skills and knowledge to appropriately prescribe exercise before, during and after your treatment for cancer and understand the heavy mental toll that these journeys can have. They can provide you with both exercise management and also support and guidance throughout the program.

Below is a TED Talk by Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Prue Cormie, who specialises in the area of exercise physiology in oncology.