Physical exercise

Usually when we are unwell we want to rest and allow our body to fight the illness. This certainly applies when you have an acute infection such as the flu. However, this “rest strategy” does not apply when trying to manage a chronic and complex disease such as cancer.

The overwhelming research and clinical evidence indicates that cancer patients should exercise most days if not every day of the week regardless of their cancer type, stage of disease or even when undergoing difficult treatments. This is despite the fact that some treatments cause a high level of fatigue.

Cancer related fatigue is different to tiredness resulting from physical and mental exertion as it is caused by the impact of treatments on heart and lung function as well as the structure and capacity of the muscles.

The best way to counteract and overcome this cancer related fatigue is appropriate exercise. This does not mean a large amount of tiring exercise, but exercise of relatively high intensity but low volume so that it benefits the cardiovascular and muscular systems without overwhelming the body.

There are numerous studies that demonstrate the value of exercise as an intervention method, and this PCFA article provides a useful introduction.

Exercise physiologists are the health professionals who can assist in this area. However with the current Covid-19 restrictions it can be difficult to attend a gym. Fortunately there is world class help available within Australia through telehealth and home-based exercise programs.

The first step is usually to do a chronic disease management plan with your GP. Allied health services may then be eligible for Medicare rebates.

For more information and some examples of services available, you can check these sites:

Prof Rob Newton: My Exercise Medicine for all phases of cancer management.

Guide for Exercise during treatment for metastatic prostate cancer