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The role of exercise during cancer treatment

The last thing you may feel like doing when undergoing cancer treatment is pulling on a pair of sneakers and going for a run.

But exercise is literally just what the doctor ordered for people living with cancer.

Across the globe, researchers repeatedly find that cancer patients get the best results when they are active, whether it’s rigorous exercise or more gentle movement.

Exercise has a plethora of proven benefits, including reduced depression and anxiety, boosted mood and energy levels and improved quality of life.

It can even help manage the side effects of treatment and speed up recovery, and equip patients both physically and mentally for the road ahead.

Still not convinced?

An Australian cancer organisation made worldwide headlines by recommending exercise as a cancer treatment of its own, in a joint call with 25 other cancer bodies.

The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia says exercise is so important that it should be embedded as part of standard practice in cancer care, to help counteract the adverse effects of cancer and its treatment.

In a position statement published in the Medical Journal of Australia last year, COSA advised that best practice cancer care should include referral to an accredited exercise physiologist and/or physical therapist with experience in cancer care.

“All people with cancer should avoid inactivity and return to normal daily activities as soon as possible following diagnosis,” COSA urged, taking into account a person’s individual ability and condition.

At Hollywood Private Hospital, our experts can help develop a tailored exercise program to suit your needs, as well as answer any questions you may have.

To start with, here are the answers to some of our most common queries.

Is it dangerous to exercise when undergoing cancer treatment?

It might seem smart to rest up and let your body heal when living with cancer. In fact, this advice has been doled out for decades.  But experts now know those opposite is true.

As COSA says: “If the effects of exercise could be encapsulated in a pill, it would be prescribed to every cancer patient worldwide and viewed as a major breakthrough in cancer treatment.”

Do I really need to exercise?

The Cancer Council of Australia says only one in ten people living with cancer exercise enough during and after treatment - but every one of those would reap the benefits.

By finding a form of physical activity you enjoy, you are not only improving your chances of responding well to treatment but helping to reduce the risk of a relapse.

A healthy diet is also important, and our highly qualified dietitians will work with you to ensure you get the nutrition you need.

How much should I do?

COSA says people living with cancer should aim for at least 150 minutes of “moderate intensity” exercise a week, or 75 minutes of “vigorous-intensity” aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, cycling and swimming.

In addition, you could build up to two or three sessions of light weight-lifting weekly.

Before pulling on the lycra for any type of sweat session, it’s best to get advice from our Hollywood Private Hospital professionals, to ensure you exercise within your limits.