New Research Shows Exercise Helps Cancer Patients Thrive

Cancer patients who otherwise would shy away from visiting the gym because of an altered appearance and lack of confidence are thriving as a result of an innovative 12-week exercise program.

The Leukaemia Foundation’s free Fit to Thrive exercise program, run in partnership with an accredited exercise physiology team at Aspire Fitness and Rehabilitation, has assisted 147 patients over a two-year period. It has challenged the idea that patients must always rest to recover and instead encourages physical activity as a way of regaining fitness and wellbeing.

A new evaluation of Fit to Thrive results by social market research company IPSOS showed cancer patients reported increased wellbeing and energy and decreased fatigue, while also showing statistically significant reductions in pain.

In just 12 weeks participants made significant and measurable improvements in overall fitness and mental health.

The evaluation adds to a growing body of research that shows physical activity before, during and after cancer treatments like chemotherapy results in improved muscle strength, flexibility, balance, quality of life, and a decrease in common side effects such as fatigue.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said the results of the new research prove that a personalised exercise program can and should play an important part in helping someone to beat their blood cancer.

“The impact of this program on participants’ fitness and quality of life has been substantial,” he said.

“Some time ago we saw exercise education and services for those facing blood cancer were in scant supply. Fit to Thrive helps put Queenslanders back on the path to what life looked like before their diagnosis.

“A special at-home program also encourages them to integrate exercise back into their daily routines to ensure long-lasting results.”

The health implications of a blood cancer diagnosis and complications from its treatment can be long-lasting and debilitating. Diagnosis rates continue to climb with more than 60,000 Australians now living with blood cancer or related disorders, and another 35 people diagnosed every day.

Aspire Fitness & Rehabilitation Accredited Exercise Physiologist Molly Shevill said there were very few options for patients seeking to regain their pre-diagnosis health and fitness.

“Side effects of cancer treatment like fatigue and loss of muscle strength mean some patients find it very difficult to return to work and normal activities,” she said.

“We’ve been inspired by the amazing progress patients made on the Fit to Thrive program.”

Participants receive ongoing encouragement from Leukaemia Foundation support staff and accredited exercise physiologists.

The Fit to Thrive program is held in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Townsville and Cairns. The program benefits all ages but a newly-launched young adult program now offers 15- to 24-year-olds the opportunity to exercise with other patients their age.

All measures reported on in the program are scientifically validated. Click here to view the full report