Fitness After Cancer Treatment: Does it Help?

Thursday July 2, 2015

By Mike Harrer, MS, CPT

The latest research suggests that it can. For many cancer survivors, simply finding ways to prevent its return becomes the first priority. Even for those who didn’t exercise prior to diagnosis, beginning a program can have long-term benefits.

Much of the existing research tells us that exercise and eating properly can aid in the prevention of cancer. Kerry Courneya, PhD, professor and Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Cancer at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, says that “recent studies suggest that higher levels of physical activity are associated with a reduced risk of the cancer coming back, and a longer survival after cancer diagnosis.”

Several clinical trials have shown that women who exercise following breast cancer treatment live longer and have less recurrence. Additionally, survivors of colorectal cancer who exercised lived longer than those who didn’t.  Courneya notes that “exercise has many of the same benefits for cancer survivors as it does for other adults.” Those benefits include an increase in muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance, along with a boost in self-confidence and mood improvement, the latter two being highly important to someone who has gone through such an emotional process.

Where Should I Begin?

Beginning an exercise program can be a difficult challenge for anyone, especially someone who has undergone cancer treatments, or may not have experience with a fitness facility. For those reasons, UNC Wellness Centers has created the LiveFit Cancer Exercise Program. This 10-week program for cancer survivors who have been treated in the last year includes instruction on core training, strength training, and yoga among other specialties. Additional screening will also provide information on body composition, range of motion, strength and circumference measurements.