20 SepExercise During Cancer Treatment- Why is it so Important?

Undertaking cancer treatment can be a very overwhelming experience. It can feel like you are going through the motions without a real sense of control. When I mention exercise, that may feel like the very last thing that is on your mind… But let me tell you why it is so important to think about.

Exercise is actually endorsed by COSA, the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, as a part of standard practice in cancer care and an adjunct therapy to cancer treatment. This is due to the strong evidence that exercise helps to counteract the adverse effects of cancer and its treatment. In fact, regular physical activity during treatment allows for improved immune function and better treatment tolerance. For some people, this means improved chemotherapy completion rates, or reduced hospitalisation duration.

Fatigue is one of the most commonly experienced side effects of cancer and its treatment. The severity of this fatigue varies widely between individuals, and it can occur anytime from diagnosis through to months after the completion of treatment. When you are fatigued, exercise may feel counterintuitive, however we know that exercise can conclusively reduce this fatigue both during and after cancer treatment. This certainly doesn’t mean that you are going to be doing the same type and intensity of exercise as before your diagnosis; an accredited exercise physiologist can help you to understand your fluctuating fatigue, along with when and how to modify your activity.

There are a number of other side effects that exercise is a safe and effective strategy to counteract. Some of these are physical including improved muscle strength, bone health and cardiorespiratory fitness, which have an effect on quality of life through ease with activities of daily living. The likelihood of developing new cancers and other diseases are reduced, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. In some cases, the risk of lymphedema and severity of anaemia can be improved through exercise interventions. Some of the side effects that exercise plays a role in are psychological, such as improved mood and self esteem, and reduced emotional stress including anxiety and depression. Arguably most importantly, exercise can give you something positive that you can control, during a time when you may feel negative and without control. For a lot of people I work with, this is what makes exercise so important to them.

An essential component of exercising during cancer treatment is ensuring that it is individualised and aligned with your specific situation. It is for this reason that COSA emphasises that best practice cancer care includes a referral to an accredited exercise physiologist and/or physiotherapist with experience in cancer care. As an accredited exercise physiologist who specialises in oncology, I take into account your specific diagnosis, medical history, treatment history, side effects of treatment, along with other factors going on in your life. I also learn what you would like to get out of your physical activity and then help you to develop a plan on how to get there. I work with your oncologists and other health care team to ensure a holistic and coordinated care approach, as its so important that you feel supported during your treatment process and beyond.

If you are unsure about where and how to begin your exercise journey, please give us a call on 3325 3678 or book your gap free assessment here

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Tamika Hassum Accredited Exercise Physiologist

True North Wellness