Exercise and Cancer: Embracing Holistic Care

Experiencing cancer can be a life-altering event, and millions of people are affected by this disease worldwide. As medical professionals seek to better the health of cancer patients through providing treatments including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery, these measures can be rigorous and often take a toll on patients’ physical and mental health. Although cancer diagnosis, treatment and post-disease life will always have challenges, a surplus of evidence indicates that exercise can play a vital role in improving the quality of life of cancer patients and survivors. At Hunter Valley Oncology, we embrace a holistic approach to cancer journeys and advocate for its benefits. We are here to support you through every phase of life with cancer and wish to explore the benefits of exercise and ways to implement healthy patterns here.

Exercise and Physical Health

Although central to overcoming this disease, cancer treatments often cause numerous physical side effects including fatigue, muscle weakness, and a loss of stamina. Various studies have shown that exercise can assist in combating these impacts by improving cardiovascular health, increasing muscle strength and flexibility, and reducing the risk of obesity. Regular exercise also improves energy levels, reduces pain and inflammation, and improves sleep quality in cancer patients and survivors. We understand that regular exercise presents additional challenges during this time, but we encourage you to be as active as possible, within your capacity to receive benefits not only from your treatment but an evidence-based lifestyle.

Improving your Mental Health

Exercise is also known to improve mental health by stimulating ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters in the brain, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, improving mood, and promoting overall well-being. We understand that experiences with cancer often negatively affect a patient’s mental health, with anxiety, depression, and emotional distress being of high prevalence. Engaging in regular exercise is a great first step towards managing your stress and anxiety during the diagnosis, treatment or aftermath stage.

Taking care of your mental health is vital, and there are numerous resources, lifestyle choices and support systems available. If you are struggling with your mental health, please reach out for help. More advice can be found on our recent blog on cancer and mental health.

Reducing the Risk of Cancer Recurrence

Several studies have shown that exercise can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence in cancer survivors, specifically for breast, colon, and prostate cancer. Many researchers believe this correlation is a result of improved immune function and reduced inflammation in the body.

Improving your Quality of Life

Improving your quality of life during and post-cancer as you navigate social, bodily and emotional changes is one of our priorities at Hunter Valley Oncology. Exercise can improve quality of life by promoting overall well-being, reducing the side effects of cancer treatments, promoting social connections, and helping patients and survivors regain a sense of control over their health and body.

Getting Started with Exercise

Hunter Valley Oncology recognises that starting an exercise routine can feel overwhelming amongst the host of challenges associated with cancer, and we are here to support you. Talk to your healthcare team to determine which type and intensity of exercise is appropriate for your individual needs. Seeing an accredited exercise physiologist can help you develop an exercise program tailored to your current needs.

Some examples of exercise that may be appropriate for cancer patients and survivors include walking, swimming, yoga, and resistance training. It is important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of exercise over time. Additionally, it is important to listen to your body and rest when needed.

Please contact Hunter Valley Oncology for further exercise advice, and let us support you in your cancer journey.

Maitland: (02) 4931 2311

Newcastle: (02) 4941 8424

The Clark Suites: (02) 4942 2600