The role of exercise in cancer treatment

The role of exercise in cancer treatment

Exercise is most likely the last thing you’d think about after a cancer diagnosis, but it shouldn’t be. Research continues to support exercise as an important component of cancer treatment and recovery, in fact COSA’s (Clinical Oncology Society of Australia) most recent position statement calls for exercise to be part of standard practice in cancer care.

Why is exercise so important? 

Research has shown that an appropriately prescribed exercise program helps to counteract the adverse side effects of cancer and its treatment. Exercise has demonstrated the following benefits:

  • Maintenance of body weight
  • Prevent de-conditioning – loss on muscle mass and cardio-respiratory fitness and strengthen bones 
  • Reduce cancer related fatigue
  • Improve mood and psychological wellbeing
  • Reduced nausea and improved appetite
  • Improved immune function
  • Improved chemotherapy completion rates
  • Reduced mortality
  • Improved ability to participate in normal activities and improved quality of life 

What type of exercise is best and how much?

The guidelines recommend that all people with cancer should:

  • Avoid being inactive and exercise as much as your doctor and AEP recommends 
  • Aim to participate in 150 minutes of exercise per week at as high of an intensity as you manage. Exercise should include aerobic (e.g. swimming, brisk walking, cycling) and resistance training (weights) 

How can an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) help?

An AEP specialised in prescribing exercise for a wide range of chronic medical conditions and injuries. AEP’s understand cancer diagnosis, staging and treatments as well as the common side effects of cancer and its treatment. AEP’s understand how cancer may affect your ability to exercise. 

AEP’s use this knowledge and wells as evidence-based practice to design safe exercise programs that will maximise the benefits of exercise and prevent exacerbation of symptoms. 

AEP’s can provide education, advice and support to help improve your overall health and wellbeing both during and after cancer treatment. 


cancer, 1., university, H., important?, W., track!, T., breathing, T., & seniors, H. (2020). The role of Exercise Physiologists in the treatment of cancer – Exercise Right. Retrieved 12 February 2020, from

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