Exercise is medicine for cancer patients when prescribed by an Accredited Exercise Physiologist

Exercise is medicine when prescribed to cancer patients in conjunction with their routine treatment. Today, there are now further calls for exercise to be provided to those living with cancer and to be prescribed by Accredited Exercise Physiologists, the expert specialists of cancer and exercise.

Following the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) "world-first" position statement in 2018, a team of exercise oncology experts from around Australia are today launching a consensus statement on the role of Accredited Exercise Physiologists in the treatment of cancer.

“Research continues to establish exercise as a medicine for people living with cancer. People with cancer who exercise regularly experience fewer and less severe treatment related side effects as well as improved quality of life,” said Jane Turner, Exercise Physiologist at the Sydney Cancer Survivorship Centre & Concord Cancer Centre and lead author.

“Research also suggests exercise helps lower the relative risk of cancer recurrence and lowers the relative risk of dying from any cause.” 

Most cancer patients who want to incorporate exercise as medicine into their treatment plan don’t know who’s the right health professional to see for exercise advice that is specific to their cancer. 

Knowing exercise is important is one thing, but research shows that cancer patients need tailored advice, an individualised program and structured support to be able to exercise safely and effectively during and after their treatment.

Accredited Exercise Physiologists, or AEPs, are allied health professionals who can prescribe and monitor exercise to cancer patients and play a key role in the cancer treatment team. AEPs provide individually tailored advice, support and resources to help people with cancer exercise safely throughout their cancer experience.

“Last year, COSA underlined the importance of exercise as an integral component in cancer treatment and this consensus statement elaborates on how to deliver it. AEPs have a deep understanding of cancer pathology and treatment and are highly trained to deliver safe, individualised exercise programs, resulting in improved quality of life for cancer patients,” explained Michael Marthick, Exercise Physiologist at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer hospital.

“The consensus statement we are launching today highlights just that, that Accredited Exercise Physiologists are required to ensure an individualised approach to exercise prescription for all people with cancer,” adds Turner.

In light of the consensus statement launch, an event is being held at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse LivingRoom on Thursday, 11th April from 11:00am, and is open to all members of the community. The launch will see a host of exercise and cancer supporters, including oncologists, exercise physiologists and those currently living with cancer and cancer survivors.

“Exercise significantly reduced the effects of the operation to remove the cancer in my uterus and is helping me cope with the effects of radiation. Even when I’m tired and not feeling well, I have learned that after exercise, I will feel better. Always,” said Gail Nason, patient at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer hospital.

Any person with cancer, their family or friends can directly contact an Exercise Physiologist to make an appointment. Currently there are over 5,000 AEPs throughout Australia and Medicare rebates are available also.

This consensus statement has been developed in consultation with Accredited Exercise Physiologists with expertise in cancer care and oncology specialists representing disciplines involved with the multidisciplinary cancer care team.

Access to the full consensus statement, including authors and scientific references, is available on the ESSA website here.