Exercise For Cancer Patients and Beyond

ocv exercise and beyond

As you may already be aware with all the news stories every month, exercise during and after cancer treatment is good for you. Gone are the days where you are told to sit and rest or lay in bed all day. Now it is recommended that you get up and go for a walk or jog, hit the gym or go to a Pilates or yoga class. But did you know, not all exercises have the same impact on your body. On top of this, not all cancer treatments have the same impact on your body (i.e. not all chemotherapies are the same).

So how do you know what to do, and what is recommended? Well current recommendations for cancer patients are:

Aerobic Exercise

Resistance Exercise


Physical Activity

3-5 Sessions/Week

Moderate to Vigorous Intensity

20-30 Minutes Duration

1-3 Sessions/Week

Moderate to Vigorous Intensity

6-10 Exercises

6-12 Repetitions

1-4 Sets

1-3 Sessions/Week

When Required

Stay as active as physically possible during treatment.

Sandra C. Hayes, R. R. (2009). Australian Association for Exercise and Sports Science Position Stand: Optimising Cancer Outcomes Through Exercise. Queensland: ESSA.


Now you might look at that and say “how am I ever going to fit that in?”. The answer is, these are guidelines, not a program. Seeing an Exercise and Cancer Specialist such as an Oncology trained Exercise Physiologist. Your body’s and lifestyle need’s change throughout treatment. If you have just had surgery, post-surgery rehab may be more important than cardiovascular exercise, or if your treatment affects your bones or muscles perhaps a resistance training and impact loading program is required. An Oncology trained Exercise Physiologist can help provide you with a program, tailored to your treatment and health needs.

The benefits of exercise are quite substantial. Exercise can:

  • Improve your chance of beating cancer as a disease <20%
  • Reduce the risk of recurrence
  • Reduce the number and severity of side effects
  • Reduce the risk of getting comorbidities (e.g. getting heart disease as a result of chemotherapy)
  • Improve your body’s ability to tolerate the treatments such as chemotherapy and hormone treatment
  • Reduce the fatigue you experience from different treatments

There is no “one size fits all” approach to having a program prescribed. An Oncology trained Exercise Professional understands the side effects of the various treatments and surgeries. They also understand the various side effects that you may experience and how to alter your exercise program so it is efficient giving you more time to enjoy life with your family and maintain normality which can often get lost after diagnosis.

Try going for a walk for 30 minutes every day for aerobic exercise (even too and from work if you struggle to find time with life commitments). Complete a home-based resistance program with little to no equipment-even bottles of water can prove useful weights for those who don’t have a budget available to buy equipment or time to leave the house. Any program should be tailored to your treatment and goals so that your health and lifestyle are maintained.