Exercise as Medicine: Supporting Medical Research

Exercise & Cancer | How Targeted Exercise Can Help Fight Cancer

ABC’s Catalyst meets a group of cancer patients that is experiencing extraordinary benefits from prescribed targeted exercise programs.

General Summary

Clinical evidence suggests a positive link between exercise and medicine when treating patients with cancer and chronic conditions, showing that exercise:

  1. Is beneficial for chronic pain, physical function, sleep, cognitive function, overall health and disease risk modification.
  2. Influences quality of life, activities of daily living, overall physical function and independence.
  3. Reduces disability and risk of developing illnesses such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and obesity.
  4. Reduces fatigue, improves quality of life and improves strength in men with prostate cancer receiving androgen deprivation therapy.
  5. Increases survival rates by 50-60%, with the strongest effect for breast, colorectal and prostate cancer.

Clinical Oncology Society of Australia recommends that exercise be an adjunct therapy to cancer care as it helps counteract the adverse effects associated with the disease and its treatment. To maximise safety and therapeutic effect, exercise should be prescribed under the direction of an Accredited Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist.


Cancer survival: time to get moving? Data accumulate suggesting a link between physical activity and cancer survival.

– Journal of clinical oncology: official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Regular exercise after cancer diagnosis will increase survival rates by 50-60%, with the strongest effects for breast, colorectal and prostate cancers.

Resistance exercise in men receiving androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer. 

– Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Exercise helped reduce fatigue, improve quality of life and increased muscle strength in men with prostate cancer receiving androgen deprivation therapy.

Effects of Resistance Exercise in Prostate Cancer Patients: a Meta-Analysis

– Department of Physical Medicine, Rehabilitation and Occupational Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Comprehensive Cancer Center, Vienna, Austria.

“Resistance exercise seems to be a promising approach in order to counteract loss of muscle mass, muscle strength, and physical performance in patients suffering from prostate cancer and its treatment-related side effects. Resistance Exercise should play part in interdisciplinary cancer rehabilitation and care of this patient group”

Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Position Statement on Exercise in Cancer Care.

All people with cancer should avoid inactivity and return to normal daily activities after diagnosis. Emerging evidence highlights that regular exercise before, during and/or following cancer treatment decreases other adverse side effects and is associated with reduced risk of developing new cancers and comorbid conditions. To maximise safety and therapeutic effect, exercise should be prescribed and delivered under the direction of an Accredited Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist with a focus on transitioning to ongoing self-managed exercise

Physical activity, risk of death and recurrence in breast cancer survivors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiological studies.

– Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing, University of Wolverhampton, Walsall Campus , Gorway Road, Walsall , UK.

There is an inverse relationship between physical activity and all-cause, breast cancer-related death and breast cancer events. This analysis supports the idea that physical activity may be an important intervention for reducing death and breast cancer events among breast cancer survivors.

Physical Activity and Survival Among Long-term Cancer Survivor and Non-Cancer Cohorts

– Edith Cowan University, Perth

“These results suggest that meeting exercise guidelines of 150 min of physical activity per week were associated with reduced all-cause mortality in both long-term cancer surviving and cancer-free cohorts. Exceeding exercise oncology guidelines (360+ min per week) may provide additional protection in terms of cancer-specific death.”

Other Conditions

Chronic disease and the link to physical activity. 

– Journal of Sport and Health Science.

Regular physical activity is a significant tool for both primary and secondary prevention of chronic disease. Physical activity can mitigate symptoms and slow or stall disease progression.

World Health Organization. Chronic Diseases. Report of WHO expert consultation. 2015

– Available from: http://www.who.int/topics/noncommunicable_diseases/en/[Ref list]

WHO and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that insufficient physical activity is the leading risk factor for chronic diseases and death worldwide.

Exercise capacity and mortality among men referred for exercise testing. 

– New England journal of medicine

People with cardiovascular disease who increased their activity levels had an increase in survival rates.

Sedentary time in US older adults associated with disability in activities of daily living independent of physical activity. 

– Journal of Physical activity and Health.

Sedentary behaviour resulted in a 46% greater odds of disability with activities of daily living.

Effects of physical exercise interventions in frail older adults: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. 

– BMC Geriatrics

Exercise interventions were examined to manage frailty in older people. This systematic review suggested that frail older adults to benefited from exercise interventions.

Exercise programs for people with dementia.

– Cochrane Database Systematic Review.

Exercise programs can have a significant impact in improving ability to perform activities of daily living and possibly in improving cognition in people with dementia.

The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement Participation in regular physical activity improves blood sugar control and can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes, along with positively affecting lipids, blood pressure, cardiovascular events, mortality, and quality of life.