GET ACTIVE: Exercise should be considered an adjunct to a patient's cancer treatment regime.
GET ACTIVE: Exercise should be considered an adjunct to a patient's cancer treatment regime. jacoblund

Exercise can help beat cancer

THE numbers are in and the answer is clear: regular exercise following a cancer diagnosis is an effective medicine in counteracting the effects caused by cancer treatment and in reducing the risk of a cancer returning.

The benefits of exercise have been known for a while and actively promoted by the Cancer Council of Australia, but now we have some surprising numbers to back the push to encourage cancer patients to keep active throughout their treatment.

Between 28% and 44% of cancer sufferers can benefit from including exercise in their treatment regime.

Australian Catholic University's Institute for Health and Ageing's Associate Professor Prue Cormie says these research numbers - collected as a result of testing about 70,000 patients across more than 100 research studies worldwide - have to change the thinking about the way cancer care is being delivered.

"It demonstrates exercising is an important component of cancer care. It's an effective medicine that can be used alongside existing treatments that help fight cancer,” Prof Cormie said.

When we consider that every four minutes an Australian is diagnosed with cancer and 71% of those are aged 60 or older, Prof Cormie's exercise message is important to seniors.

The best exercise is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week, which equates to a 30-minute brisk, heart-rate raising walk five days a week.

Two to three resistance exercise sessions per week should also be included in your program.

A key point Prof Cormie makes is for patients to ensure they work with a physiologist qualified in using exercise for people diagnosed with a chronic disease.

"They can make sure the exercise is safe and that it can maximise the potential benefits for the patient at the stage they are at during their cancer treatment,” she said.

"The key is people are getting the right advice to maximise the safety and therapeutic effects of exercise.”

Prof Cormie also suggests exercise should be a standard component of a cancer treatment program, specialists should recommend patients adhere to the exercise program and refer the patient on to a professional who can help the patient achieve the program.

"Based on scientific research, there is no therapy or medication that offers more potential than exercise to reverse treatment-related side effects and increase quality of life and well-being of cancer patients,” Prof Cormie said.


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