Clinical research has established exercise as a safe and effective intervention to counteract many of the adverse physical and psychological effects of cancer and its treatment. To date, the strongest evidence exists for improving physical function (including aerobic fitness, muscular strength and functional ability), attenuating cancer-related fatigue, alleviating psychological distress and improving quality of life across multiple general health and cancer-specific domains [3-17].
Emerging evidence highlights that regular exercise before, during and/or following cancer treatment decreases the severity of other adverse side effects and is associated with reduced risk of developing new cancers and comorbid conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis [3, 4]. Furthermore, epidemiological research suggests that being physically active provides a protective effect against cancer recurrence, cancer-specific mortality and all-cause mortality for some types of cancer (research has predominantly focused on breast, colorectal and prostate cancers) [3, 18-27]. These findings have set the scene for a number of clinical trials, which are currently underway to rigorously evaluate the effects of exercise on cancer survival.
The convincing body of epidemiological and clinical trial evidence on the benefits of exercise has led to the endorsement of exercise guidelines for people with cancer by major organisations internationally [28-33]. These guidelines largely mirror guidelines for the general population (as outlined in the previous section). Despite this advice being widely disseminated by government and non-government cancer organisations, the majority of Australian’s with cancer do not meet these recommended targets [34-36]. Reports indicate that approximately 60-70% of people with cancer do not meet aerobic exercise guidelines and it is estimated that approximately 80-90% do not meet resistance exercise guidelines [34-36]. Thus, while many people with cancer have indicated a desire to participate in appropriately designed and supervised exercise programs [37-45], only a minority are engaging in sufficient levels of exercise.
References: 1-45: Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, COSA Position Statement on Exercise in Cancer Care April 2018, COSA Position Statement Summary from the Medical Journal of Australia .
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