Exercise 'good medicine' for cancer patients

Free ESSA eBook highlights benefits of exercise for cancer care

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Researchers suggest exercise is one of the best medicines people with cancer can take in addition to their cancer treatments. Photo: Shutterstock

Researchers suggest exercise is one of the best medicines people with cancer can take in addition to their cancer treatments. Photo: Shutterstock

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'Science suggests exercise is one of the best medicines people with cancer can take in addition to their cancer treatments,' says expert.

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PUTTING on your gym gear and exercising may feel like the last thing someone wants to do during cancer recovery, but it could make all the difference by helping boost energy, minimise side effects and even enhance the recovery process say experts.

Queensland woman Angela was diagnosed with brain cancer at 45 and said her diagnosis has been life-changing, but not all in a bad way.

After recovering from her initial surgery and radiation, she knew her health needed to become a top priority again.

Angela undertook a clinical trial which included an 18-week personalised exercise program with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist in a bid to increase overall muscle mass, improve core strength and balance (which the tumour and treatment had impacted on), and to set up habits which would strengthen her overall health and immune system.

Since finishing the trial, Angela has continued to exercise. She says besides noticing physical improvements, she has also experienced less intense and less frequent "knock-out" fatigue and feels like she is able to better cope with the emotional pain and anxiety of being diagnosed with cancer.

She knows now that looking after herself physically, mentally and emotionally through regular exercise has significantly improved the quality of her life and her relationships.

Angela has shared her story in a new free Exercise & Cancer e-book launched by Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA).

The eBook highlights current exercise guidelines for a range of different cancers, and aims to educate those living with cancer as to how physical activity can help them on their journey through treatment and recovery.

With 1 in 2 Australian men and women being diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85, there's over 1 million people alive in Australia who are either living with or have had or been previously diagnosed with cancer.

ESSA says for these people, like Angela, exercise can help to improve quality of life during and after treatment.

Associate Professor Prue Cormie is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who specialises in oncology.

"Science suggests that exercise is one of the best medicines people with cancer can take in addition to their cancer treatments.

"That's because people who exercise regularly following a cancer diagnosis experience fewer and less severe side effects," said A/Prof Cormie.

"Emerging research also suggests that exercise may help lower the relative risk of a cancer recurrence and cancer-related death for people diagnosed with some cancers."

And while it may sound counterintuitive, ESSA says exercise can actually reduce cancer-related fatigue.

Other benefits of exercise for people with cancer include:

  • Improved muscle strength and fitness
  • Improved physical function to help with everyday activities
  • Improved immune function
  • Improved chemotherapy completion rates
  • Improved mood and self-esteem
  • Reduced hospitalisation duration
  • Reduced psychological and emotional stress, including depression and anxiety
  • Reduced number and severity of symptoms and side effects reported (e.g., pain, fatigue, nausea)
  • Reduced chance of developing new cancers and other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

ESSA says as well as this list of benefits research shows that exercise during and following cancer treatment can also reduce the risk of long-term heart problems after radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy, minimise loss of bone strength, reduce the risk of developing lymphedema, improve anaemia (a red-blood cell deficiency) and enhance quality of life.

The free Exercise & Cancer book can be downloaded HERE or go to exerciseright.com.au for more information.

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