CanBeatIt – Cancer & Exercise Therapy by AEP Tresna Browne

CanBeatIt – Cancer & Exercise Therapy by AEP Tresna Browne

Every 4 minutes your blood has completed four laps of your body and returned to your heart; but in that same amount of time there will also be another cancer diagnosis made within Australia. A staggering 134, 174 new cases were diagnosed in 2017, with the figure estimated to rise by 20181, which results in 1 in 2 Australian men and women who will be directly associated with a cancer diagnosis by age of 85, and therefore highly likely that the other 50% of the Australian population will be indirectly associated with cancer throughout their lifetime2.


What is Cancer?

Cancer is a disease of the body’s cells whereby abnormality and mutations occur in the cells which accumulate and consequently result in uncontrolled cell division Because cancer is a disease initiated in the cells of the body, it can present in virtually any part of the body including the organs, blood, and lymph nodes2,3.


Are you at risk?

An array of risk factors have been identified which are both non-modifiable, such as age, and modifiable, such as physical activity3. However, both can impact a variety of cancer types to varying degrees. The good news is that we have control over the modifiable risk factors, and even more interestingly recent research has investigated the impact of exercise for the benefits during (inclusive of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery) and after treatment. So not only can exercise provide a multitude of benefits such as improved sleep and ability to relax, improved self-confidence, and prevention and management of an array of other chronic conditions, the research has now recognised the significant importance of including exercise as part of cancer treatment. Some of the major findings include an overall reduced impact of side effects secondary to treatment, a lower relative risk of cancer recurrence, and a reduced relative risk in mortality related to cancer2,4.


Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients 

The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia recommend that exercise be a routine component of standard practice in cancer care which applies to during treatment and following completion5. It is widely recognised throughout the research that exercise reduces physical decline, relieves cancer related fatigue, improves mental health, assists patients to tolerate treatment, and overall improves one’s quality of life3,4,5. Additionally, increased physical activity behaviour reduces the risk or severity of known adverse side effects such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and sarcopenia6,7. The substantial amount of research deems exercise is safe and associated risk is relatively low, provided it is performed with appropriate prescription and monitoring8. Therefore, it is recommended patients seek the assistance of a qualified exercise professional, such as an Exercise Physiologist, who has formal study and experience with cancer care.


Type of exercise

Exercise should be prescribed with consideration for both the type of cancer and it’s effect on health, and secondly how exercise itself impacts the different body systems. The exercise guidelines recommend people with cancer are as physically active as they are able, however more specifically the guidelines recommend:

  • Minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise
  • Two to three resistance sessions each week which involve moderate to vigorous intensity exercise that target major muscle groups4.


Want to know more about our CanBeatIt program? Call us today on 0412 740 322  for more information on our next group program running from our clinics.



[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017, August, 9th). Cancer in Australia 2017. Retrieved from


[2] Cancer Council. (2018, September, 3rd). Facts and Figures: Cancer in Australia. Retrieved from


[3] Irwin, M.L. (2012). ACSM’s guide to exercise and cancer survivorship. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.


[4] Hayes, S. C., Spence, R. R., Galvao, D. A., & Newton, R. U. (2009). Australian Association for Exercise and Sport Science position stand: Optimising cancer outcomes through exercise. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 12, 428-434.


[5] Clinical Oncology Society of Australia. (2017). COSA Position Statement: Exercise in Cancer Care [position statement]. Retreived from


[6] Pachman, D. R., Barton, D. L., Swetz, K.M ., & Loprinzi, C. L. (2012). Troublesome symptoms in cancer survivors: fatigue, insomnia, neuropathy, and pain. Journal Clinical Oncology, 30(30), 3687-96.


[7] Collier, A., Ghosh, S., McGlynn, B., & Hollins, G. (2012). Prostate cancer, androgen deprivation therapy, obesity, the metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease: a review. American Journal Clinical Oncology, 35(5), 504-9.


[8] Cormie, P., Lamb, S., Newton, R. U., Valentine, L., McKiernan, S., Spry, N., … Galvao, D. A. (2017). Implementing exercise in cancer care: study protocol to evaluate a community-based exercise program for people with cancer. BMC Cancer, 17(103).