How exercise is ‘medicine’ for cancer

WA Scientist of the Year Professor Rob Newton is on a mission: to save the lives of as many cancer patients as possible through tailored exercise intervention.

The exercise medicine expert from Edith Cowan University (ECU) has devoted his career to exercise-driven cancer treatment, which he says can reduce the relative risk of death by up to 50 per cent.

Professor Newton explains exactly how tailored exercise prescriptions can help in the treatment and management of cancer in the latest episode of ECU’s ‘Body of Knowledge’ podcast. 

He says the idea of bedrest for cancer patients is a thing of the past.

“If you adopt a rest strategy, you will only have more treatment side-effects, greater dose reduction and ultimately reduced chances of survival,” he said.The body’s own pharmacy Professor Newton says the body has a remarkable ability to produce its own medicine cabinet, with exercise the key to unlocking it.

“Muscles are very important for maintaining our immune system and metabolism,” he said.

“When we exercise, our body produces chemicals and these chemicals interact systemically with every other system in our body.

“If we exercise regularly, we stimulate a large pharmacy to produce more of these very magical chemicals, this internal medicine.”Preparing for a marathon Professor Newton said exercise is being prescribed to patients right from the time of diagnosis through treatment, surgery and recovery.

“Going through cancer is a marathon and you need to train for it,” he said.

“We know exercise will make patients more resilient. Exercise therapy before surgery or chemotherapy will get the patient as fit as possible so they can manage the stress on their body.

“Certain types of exercise can facilitate cancer therapies. It can enhance the chemotherapy or radiotherapy and increase treatment effectiveness.

“Exercise can also help in the management of side-effects of treatment.”

You can listen to the full episode of ECU’s Body of Knowledge podcast featuring Professor Newton here: ​

If you or someone you know has been affected by cancer, contact Cancer Council on
13 11 20.