Exercise and Cancer
Before taking part in any exercise program, either during or after treatment, it is important to talk to your oncologist or general practitioner (GP) about any precautions you should take. While any exercise recommendations may feel overwhelming, aim to be as physically active as your abilities allow and adapt your exercise program to suit your type and stage of cancer. Some days may be harder than others, but even a few minutes of light exercise is better than no exercise at all.
You don’t need expensive equipment or special clothing to exercise, but suitable shoes are essential. Visit a reputable shoe shop for suggestions. Wear loose, comfortable clothes, such as shorts and a T-shirt, when exercising. Other equipment, such as activity monitors, weights, heart rate monitors and home-gym systems, can be useful but are not necessary.
Seeing an exercise professional
It’s natural to have lots of questions when starting an exercise program. The most appropriate health professionals to design an exercise program for people with cancer are accredited exercise physiologists or physiotherapists. They can help develop a program based on what you can do and any physical problems or side effects related to the type of cancer you have.
Personal trainers and exercise scientists are not trained to work with people who have major health issues.
Also called accredited exercise physiologists (AEPs), these allied health professionals have completed at least a four-year university degree. They use exercise as medicine to help with chronic disease management and overall wellbeing.
These allied health professionals have completed at least a four-year university degree. They focus on physical rehabilitation and prevention and treatment of injuries using a variety of techniques, including exercise, massage and joint manipulation.
You may be able to see an exercise professional at your cancer treatment centre, or your GP may be able to refer you to an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist as part of a Chronic Disease Management Plan, which means you may be eligible for a Medicare rebate for up to five visits per calendar year. Most private health
insurers provide limited cover for visits to an exercise physiologist or a physiotherapist, but this depends on the type and level of cover. The Department of Veteran Affairs may be able to assist some people.
How to find an exercise professional
You can search for an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP) by name, location or speciality by visiting the Exercise & Sports Science Australia’s website, or for a physiotherapist at the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s website. To find an appropriate group exercise program, ask your GP for a referral or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
This information is reviewed by
This information was last reviewed March 2019 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Prue Cormie, Chair, COSA Exercise and Cancer Group, and Principal Research Fellow – Exercise Oncology, Australian Catholic University, NSW; Rebecca Cesnik, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, ACT; Dr Nicolas Hart, Senior Research Fellow, Exercise Medicine Research Institute, Edith Cowan University, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Cancer Council WA; Stephanie Lamb, Life Now Project Officer, Cancer Council WA; John Odd, Consumer; Sharni Quinn, Clinical Lead Physiotherapist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Jane Turner, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW.