Exercise and Cancer

Is it safe?
When is a good time to start? 
What can I do?

Starting or maintaining an exercise regimen may be the last thing that comes to mind when you receive an initial cancer diagnosis. You have been told many things by this point and are filled with uncertainty of what you can do.

Exercise has been proven to play an important role in managing treatment related side effects and disease burden which both have a detrimental effect on quality of life. Exercise can help to empower individuals, allowing them to take some control of their day to day lives by helping to maintain their functional capacity and alleviating psychological stresses.

Benefits of Exercise for Cancer
  • Maintain/improve functional capacity 
  • Maintain/improve muscular strength 
  • Reduced number and severity of symptoms and side effects reported (e.g., pain, fatigue, nausea)
  • Improve treatment completion rates
  • Improve chemotherapy drug uptake 
  • Reduce further risk of developing new cancers and other comorbidities (including heart disease and obesity) 
  • Improve mood and sleep
  • Improved immune function
  • Reduced psychological and emotional stress, including depression and anxiety;

There is never an easy way to start so sometimes the best option is to take the first step and ask for support whether that is asking a friend or family member to go for a short walk with you or going to a health professional for further advice. 

How could a health professional such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist help? 

Accredited Exercise Physiologists can conduct appropriate assessments and create individualised programs for cancer patients at any stage of their journey. An Accredited Exercise Physiologist will help to gradually increase exercise whilst providing education on how to best achieve your desired goals. It is highly recommended that cancer patients perform both aerobic and resistance-based exercise to help elicit the best outcomes. Health professionals within a client’s care- team should encourage/promote the suggested physical activity guidelines for cancer patients, which are:

  • progress towards and, once achieved, maintain participation in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise each week, and two to three resistance exercise sessions each week involving moderate to vigorous intensity exercises targeting the major muscle groups.

It is important to highlight that this is a guideline that everyone can work towards not a set expectation. It is important to listen to your body and with the appropriate support you can devise a plan to best manage your journey. It is also helpful to know that the intensities suggested above are relative to you and how you’re going on any given day. Some days a gentle walk will feel vigorous and other days it will be easy.

See below a nice little tool that you can use to help with your exercise routine and managing your side effects. 

Bad day Rest day
Meh day Perhaps go for a walk
Good day Complete exercise as normal

So ask your GP, Oncologist or contact us at Empower Exercise physiology today and be the change to empower your journey.

For extra information download a free eBook from Exercise Sport Scientist Australia https://mailchi.mp/essa/exerciseandcancer 

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