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For the first time, the clinical oncology society of Australia (COSA) has confirmed one of the most effective and accessible treatments for all cancer sufferers- Exercise.

The COSA have been firm with their recommendations as well, stating-

  • Exercise should form an integral part of standard cancer care and be viewed as a complimentary therapy that helps offset the adverse effects of cancer itself and medication side effects.
  • All members of the multi-disciplinary cancer team should promote physical activity and help their patients adhere to exercise guidelines.
  • Best practice cancer care should include referral to an accredited exercise physiologist with experience in cancer care.


Lead author of the statement, clinical researcher and chair of the COSA cancer guidelines committee, Dr Prue Cormie, doubles down on the stance and goes as far as suggesting if exercise was a pill, it would be seen as a major break through in cancer treatment.


The evidence supports the claims as well with hundreds of studies showing real, tangible benefits of exercise for patients with a variety of different cancers and at different stages.

In an analysis of 61 clinical trials of women at various stage of breast cancer, those who underwent an exercise program during treatment showed significantly improved quality of life, fitness, energy, and strength. These same participants reported significantly less anxiety, depression, lower BMI and waist circumference compared with the regular care groups.


Further analysis of another 28 trials involving over 1000 participants diagnosed with advanced cancers including leukemia, lymphoma, lung, breast, GI and prostate was also completed. Results demonstrated that an exercise program during treatment reproduced similarly supporting results with the addition of improved sleep quality.


The COSA statement recommends that those with cancer aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of intense aerobic exercise per week. Aerobic exercise is encouraged to be supported by resistance-based exercise on a further 2 times per week involving moderate to vigorous intensity targeting the major muscle groups.


Starting an exercise program can be difficult at the best of times; doing so whilst enduring the physical and psychological effects of cancer and its treatment can seem impossible. Cancer sufferers are encouraged to seek an accredited exercise physiologist for appropriate instruction and guidance when commencing exercise.


Hunter Rehabilitation and Health, having recently been awarded a grant to enable the provision of exercise to children diagnosed with cancer, is one such practice experienced in the field. Hunter Rehab Exercise Physiologist, Eden, who has recently been featured in local newspaper The Herald for her work with cancer patients understands the daunting nature of commencing exercise and stresses that the emphasis remains on individualizing the plan. Eden explains that ‘whilst it’s important that the program provides the desired stimulus and results, it’s also important that the patient enjoys themselves with a sense of empowerment and motivation throughout what is typically a tough time.


In Australia 1 in 2 men and women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85. The chances are we all know someone who has had or has been diagnosed. Whilst we all await that breakthrough that finally rids us of this terrible disease for good, the next best thing is readily accessible to all- Exercise. Come in and see Eden or another member of the team to get started.



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