Cancer treatment plans should include tailored exercise prescriptions

New guidelines published today from exercise oncology experts recommend systematic use of an “exercise prescription” by health-care workers and exercise professionals in designing and delivering exercise programs to lower the risk of developing certain cancers.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) convened a roundtable of experts from 17 partner organisations, which included Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute–part of the National Institutes of Health, to review the latest scientific evidence and offer recommendations about the benefits of exercise for prevention, treatment, recovery and improved survival.

Professor Sandra Hayes, Senior Research Fellow, Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, who was one of the experts on the round table said the importance of including exercise as treatment for cancer could no longer be ignored.

“It is fundamental to ensuring people live as well as possible during and beyond their treatment, and potentially live longer,’’ she said.

“It is now clear — exercise prevents many cancers, including some of our common cancers such as breast and colorectal cancer. Evidence also shows that post-cancer it becomes even more important to be physically active as this is linked with improved survival.”

She said targeted, exercise prescription following a cancer diagnosis, that accommodates type of cancer, stage of disease and treatment-related side effects, can ensure maximal individual benefit both during and beyond treatment.

“Physical activity is linked with fewer and less severe treatment-related side effects, improved function and quality of life and may even improve survival.”

The new evidenced-based guidance and recommendations include:

  • For all adults, exercise is important for cancer prevention and specifically lowers risk of seven common types of cancer: colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, bladder, esophagus and stomach
  • For cancer survivors, incorporate exercise to help improve survival after a diagnosis of breast, colon and prostate cancer
  • Exercising during and after cancer treatment improves fatigue, anxiety, depression, physical function, quality of life and does not exacerbate lymphedema
  • Continue research that will drive the integration of exercise into the standard of care for cancer
  • Translate into practice the increasingly robust evidence base about the positive effects of exercise for cancer patients