Bowel Cancer & Exercise


Bowel Cancer & Exercise

Bowel cancer, also known as Colorectal cancer, can affect any part of the rectum or colon which both form part of the large intestine. The large intestine is responsible for receiving digested food, absorbing water and nutrients then passing waste into the rectum to be disposed of via the anus.

Bowel cancer does not discriminate as it affects women, men and the young and old. In Australia, 1 in 11 males and 1 in 15 females will be diagnosed with this cancer by the age of 85, it is the second most common cancer in both men and women in Australia. Upon diagnosis, a variety of surgical, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy treatments are commonly utilised, each of which have significant side effects.

Significant research has shown that exercise is essential during and post any cancer treatment to assist in management of side effects and improving quality of life.

Over the past decade, public health campaigns and education programs have improved the detection rates of bowel cancer. Now, as a result, it is known as the third most common cancer among Australians. Research into the role that exercise plays in cancer care is also becoming more important because of the advances in diagnostic and treatment methods.

Exercise in Bowel Cancer Care

The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia released a position statement on exercise in cancer care and they published the statement in the Medical Journal of Australia. Their main advice included:

  1. Exercise should be a part of standard practice in cancer care.
  2. All members of the multidisciplinary team should promote and reinforce the exercise guidelines to their patients.
  3. Best practice should include a referral to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist with experience in cancer care.

Benefits of Exercise

Exercising during and after bowel cancer treatment can bring many benefits including an improved quality of life, functional capacity and reduce pain and discomfort. Exercising after a diagnosis of bowel cancer has been shown to reduce the risk of recurrence and improves overall survival. Recent evidence also suggests that exercise has the capacity to improve recovery from surgery and enhances patients’ ability to cope during chemotherapy.

Research Evidence

Research shows strong evidence that physical activity plays an important role in the prevention and management of bowel cancer.

  • Cancer patients who exercise often experience fewer and less severe treatment side effects, with a significant decrease in cancer-related fatigue (CRF).
  • Exercise does improve long term survival rates in patients and can reduce the risk of the cancer returning.

Exercise Guidelines

The evidence-based exercise guidelines for cancer care patients are in line with those recommended for the general public. These guidelines include:

  • Building up to 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise weekly +
  • Two sessions of resistance-based exercise.

There are great benefits that come from incorporating the following types of exercise into a programme:

  • Strengthening and functional exercises – to maintain strength, balance, confidence and capacity
  • Aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming or riding a bike can improve your cardiovascular capacity which can be impacted during cancer treatment.
  • Stretching – Stiffness and pain can be a side effect of some cancer treatments so maintaining flexibility and mobility throughout the body is incredibly important not only to assist in pain relief but to improve functional capacity and movement

Exercise programs need to be individualised and must consider the appropriate level at which to commence. This should take into account past and current level of fitness, present symptoms, stage of disease, and planned cancer treatment. Most importantly, this should also consider the specific goals of every patient.

If you would like more information or would like to book in for an individualised assessment, please contact us at Alchemy in Motion.

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