Woman with cancer exercising

The Role of Exercise Whilst Living With Cancer

There is a growing base of evidence from around the world that is highlighting the valuable role that exercise can play when living with, and beyond cancer: from diagnosis, through treatment, and when in remission.

There is strong evidence that shows that being physically active is associated with prevention of at least 7 different types of cancer – colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, bladder, oesophageal and stomach cancers.

Evidence also shows that exercise is associated with improved survival in patients diagnosed with breast, colon, and prostate cancers.Before:
Engaging in exercise programs prior to undergoing treatment can lead to increased cardiovascular fitness, decreased post-operative complications, and decreased length of hospital stays.

During:
Whilst undergoing treatment, there is strong evidence to demonstrate that being physically active helps to manage fatigue and preserve muscular and cardiovascular fitness.

Ongoing:
Following cancer treatment, participating in regular physical activity results in increased muscular and cardiovascular fitness, improves body composition measures, decreases fatigue, and improves overall wellbeing

Exercise Overcome Cancer Side Effects

What does exercise throughout the cancer journey look like?
The American College of Sports Medicine recently held a large roundtable discussion on the topic, and were able to provide expert opinion on the amount of exercise required to produce a benefit in several cancer-related health outcome, including fatigue, quality of life, physical function, anxiety, and depressive symptoms.

These guidelines suggest:

–          3 x weekly aerobic exercise for 30mins

–          at a moderate level of intensity – this means being able to talk, but not sing

–          This could include brisk walking, light bike riding, water exercise, or dancing

–          30 minutes of exercise can be broken up into several 5-10minute blocks completed throughout the course of the day, whilst maintaining similar benefits.

Similar benefits have been produced following twice-weekly resistance exercises, involving:

–          One exercise per main muscle group

–          8 to 15 reps per set

–          2 sets of each exercise

–          Progressing in small increments

Resistance training doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go out and join a gym – resistance exercise can be completed with elastic bands, body weight, or small hand weights.

In general, supervised exercise programs conducted with health professionals produced larger effects than unsupervised programs, as these professionals are able to personalise a program and approach to physical activity to suit the individual and their treatment pathway.

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