Exercise and Cancer

Cancer becomes more prevalent in an aging population with 1 in 4 women and 1 in 3 men affected before we hit 75 years of age. It is known that exercise plays a key role in cancer prevention for breast, colorectal and colon cancers and more research is emerging for the prevention in prostate, lung and endometrial cancers. In relation to exercise dose, we must all strive to achieve the national guidelines of at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity while implementing resistance-based activities on at least 2 days a week. These are the minimum targets! Remember more is better than some and some is better than none. In relation to cancer prevention, the risk for prostate, breast and colorectal cancer decreases with an increase in activity.

Studies have shown that exercising either during or following cancer treatment can prevent cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory decline, improve or preserve muscle mass and bone density, reduce fat mass, improves self-esteem and mood. It also reduces the severity of treatment side effects such as nausea, fatigue, pain along with reducing depression, anxiety, and hospitalisations. Exercise can also increase the ability to complete chemotherapy treatment which may lead to better survival rates. There are specific guidelines on exercise and cancer so if you are looking for more information it is best to chat to your doctor or Accredited Exercise Physiologist for an individualised programme.


Taylor Downes

Exercise Consultant (B.Sc. Sport & Exercise, B.Ed. Human Movement) (ESSAM)


Hayes, S. C., Spence, R. R., Galvão, D. A., & Newton, R. U. (2009). Australian association for exercise and sport science position stand: Optimising cancer outcomes through exercise. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 12(4), 428-434. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2009.03.002

Cormie, P., Atkinson, M., Bucci, L., Cust, A., Eakin, E., Hayes, S., . . . Adams, D. (2018). Clinical oncology society of Australia position statement on exercise in cancer care. Medical Journal of Australia, 209(4), 184-187. doi:10.5694/mja18.00199