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Exercise Physiologist Blog: Exercise & Cancer:

By Lynsey McCaughey | In WATCH THIS SPACE | on January 24, 2017

Approximately 25 million people are living with cancer in the world. Unfortunately, people tend to decrease the amount of physical activity that they partake in after diagnosis of cancer and during cancer treatment. Cancer treatment has you feeling horrible. Common side effects are fatigue, anxiety, loss of appetite, weight change, nausea and pain. These side effects peak during treatment, however, you can be left effected for months or years following the treatment. In recent studies, it has been proven that exercise can help to reduce the symptoms and side effects of treatment. This is especially true in cancers such as colon, breast and prostate.
Exercise has been proven to:
• increase muscle strength and endurance
• increase energy and decreased cancer-related fatigue
• improve bone density and range of motion of the joints
• increase cardiovascular and respiratory function
• decrease nausea and vomiting for some people on chemotherapy
• improve appetite
• improve quality of sleep
• improve digestion and reduced constipation
• decrease levels of stress and anxiety
• improve mood.

How much exercise:
You do not have to run a marathon or lift massive weights (although you can). The recommended daily amount of physical activity for patients with cancer is 150 minutes per week. This can be broken down into 30 mins of cardio respiratory exercise such as brisk walking 5 days per week. Some muscle strengthening exercises are also shown to be beneficial. Therefore, a combination of cardiovascular activity and some weight-bearing activities would be ideal.
Who can help me?
An exercise physiologist (AEP) is the most appropriate exercise professional to advise people affected by cancer as they concentrate on using exercise as medicine to help with injury and chronic disease management. An AEP understands the side effects of cancer and cancer treatments and takes these into consideration. An AEP can also help to “bridge the gap” between the end of treatment and the return to daily life activities. Living with cancer can without a doubt be scary, AEP’s understand this and with their in-depth knowledge you will be in the right hands. They will carry out the appropriate screenings and assessments including a detailed history taking to make sure that the exercises conducted are safe and suitable to the individual.

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1996). Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved June 26, 2009, from:

McTiernan A, editor. Cancer Prevention and Management Through Exercise and Weight Control. Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC, 2006.

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

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