How Can Exercise Help With Cancer?

Optimising Cancer Outcomes Through Exercise, Written by Exercise Physiologist Annika Coyne

Cancer risk decreases as activity level increases

Physical activity, as a means of cancer prevention, has considerable strong and convincing evidence for particular cancers (breast and colorectal specifically), to the extent that the lack of physical activity is considered a risk factor for such cancers.

Exercise physiologist plays a significant role during and following cancer treatment:

  • Preventing, managing and reducing treatment-related side-effects
  • Bridging the gap between treatment cessation and returning to ADL
  • Improving long-term health by optimising physical functional, prevention of cancer reoccurrence and other chronic diseases (BMD loss, CVD, etc.)

In the literature, exercise during and following treatment has shown to:

  • Prevents decline and improve cardiovascular function
  • Improves body composition and immune function
  • Improves strength and flexibility
  • Improves body image, self-esteem and mood
  • Stimulate the neuromuscular, endocrine, immune and skeletal symptoms for symptom reduction and health enhancement

Reduces number and severity of side effects including:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Improves QOL
  • Reduced hospitalisation duration
  • Improves chemotherapy completion rates
  • Allows for better adjustment to illness
  • Reduces stress, anxiety and depression

In fact, the LACK of PHYSICAL ACTIVITY participation during and following cancer treatment has the potential to exacerbate fatigue symptoms and loss of function, overall impacting quality of life.

Exercise recommendations

  • Steady progress may mean regular participation in exercise rather than the continual progression of intensity/duration/frequency
  • Keeping a diary of frequency and intensity of side effects, exercise participation, the treatment being undertaken, workdays and other relevant information to help identify worsening symptoms and the cause throughout treatment.

Cardiovascular (CV) Exercise

·         Exercises involving large muscle groups

·         Don’t need to be restricted to walking or stationary bike

·         3-5days/week

·         20-30mins continuous CV exercise, but may need to start as low 3-5mins with rest intervals for deconditioned patients

Resistance Exercise

·         Dynamic using concentric an eccentric muscle contraction

·         Use of machine weight, free weights, bodyweight and bands that involve major functional muscle groups

·         Include exercises that replicate daily tasks causing problems for patients

·         1-3days per week (rest days in between)

·         6-10reps, 1-4 sets per muscle group

More about Annika

Annika is an enthusiastic Exercise Physiologist with a passion for Women’s Health. Annika has experience working with pelvic floor dysfunction, diastisis rectus abdominals, pre and post-natal, pelvic & lower back pain. She supports all women by educating them to better understand and manage their condition and restores physical function through exercise. Annika also has a special interest in musculoskeletal rehabilitation. She is committed to delivering high-quality Exercise Physiology, prescribing the best rehabilitation plans based on her clients’ goals. Annika’s love of sport and exercise is what drives her passion for health and well-being. Annika believes that TODAY is always the right day to start.

Annika is available for Exercise Physiology appointments at our Sippy Downs location.