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Exercise Rehabilitation for Cancer

Advances in detection and treatment mean that more people are surviving their cancer diagnosis. However, they are often left with lingering treatment side-effects which can last for affect their health and quality of life.


More than 20,000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with cancer each year. Great advances are always being made to detect, treat and manage cancers – but many survivors experience long-lasting side effects which impact negatively on their health and quality of life.


Studies (2, 3) have demonstrated that exercise:

  • Enhances physical function
  • Increases cardiorespiratory fitness and strength
  • Reduces nausea
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Reduces anxiety and depression
  • Increases integrity of bone and muscle mass
  • Assists with weight management to reduce fat mass and maintain/increase lean tissue mass

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1. McGowan, 2011. Exercise interventions in supportive oncology. 2. Schmitz, 2010. American College of Sports Medicine roundtable on exercise guidelines for cancer survivors. 3. Rajotte, 2012. Community-based exercise program effectiveness and safety for cancer survivors. 4. Buffart, 2014. Evidence-based physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors: current guidelines, knowledge gaps and future research directions. 5. Galvão, 2005. Review of exercise intervention studies in cancer patients. 6. Mishra, 2012. Exercise interventions on health‐related quality of life for cancer survivors. 7. Newton, 2008. Exercise in prevention and management of cancer. 8. Chan, 2010. Effectiveness of exercise programmes on shoulder mobility and lymphoedema after axillary lymph node dissection for breast cancer: systematic review. 9. McNeely, 2010. Exercise interventions for upper‐limb dysfunction due to breast cancer treatment. 10. Holmes, 2005. Physical activity and survival after breast cancer diagnosis. 11. Meyerhardt, 2006. Physical activity and survival after colorectal cancer diagnosis. 12. Kenfield, 2011. Physical activity and survival after prostate cancer diagnosis in the health professional’s follow-up study.