Exercise is some of the best medicine

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Exercise is one of the best treatments for cancer and should be part of standard care, according to the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA).

COSA is comprised of over 1,000 doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and scientists working in cancer care across Australia.

According to its new paper, "All people with cancer should avoid inactivity and return to normal daily activities as soon as possible following diagnosis."

It recommends all people living with cancer should maintain at least 50 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week, as well as two to three weight-based sessions.

Australian Catholic University’s Professor Prue Cormie, chair of the COSA exercise and cancer care group and lead author of the statement, said the evidence to support the recommendation that every person diagnosed with cancer should be encouraged to exercise in addition to their other cancer treatments is now overwhelming.

“Evidence suggests that withholding exercise from people with cancer is harmful,” said associate professor Cormie.

“Based on what the science tells us, exercise is the best medicine people with cancer can take, in addition to their cancer treatments, to reverse treatment-related side-effects, slow the progression of their cancer, increase quality of life and improve the chances of survival.

“If we could turn the benefits of exercise into a pill it would be demanded by patients, prescribed by every cancer specialist and subsidised by government – it would be seen as a major breakthrough in cancer treatment. Exercise is a medicine that works alongside mainstream treatment to help those affected by cancer feel better and increases their chances of survival.”

According to David Speakman, chief medical officer at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, “The notion that we must protect a patient, wrap them in cotton wool, is old fashioned and not supported by the research. Our attitudes to treating cancer – what it takes to give people their best chance at survival – have to change. All cancer patients will benefit from an exercise prescription.”