Exercise techniques

What they are?

Exercise and physical activity cover four types of exercise:

  • Aerobic exercise – uses large muscle groups and causes your heart rate to rise. It may reduce the onset of side effects and their severity, maintain mood and improve energy levels. Examples include walking, swimming, running and cycling, but everyday activities such as gardening and housework count.
  • Strength training – Also known as resistance training or weight training, strength training involves making your muscles work harder than usual against some sort of resistance. Strength training can be done with hand weights, special elastic resistance bands, weight machines at gyms and your own body weight.
  • Balance – This is the ability to control your body’s position whether standing still or moving. Having good balance can help prevent falls and this is important for daily activities such as walking, and going up and down stairs. Examples include yoga, tai chi and Pilates.
  • Flexibility – These stretch your muscles and help improve your range of motion. Being flexible gives you more freedom of movement for other exercises as well as for everyday activities. Examples include yoga, tai chi and Pilates.

Why use them?

Exercise is generally accepted as being beneficial for improving strength, flexibility, mobility, fitness and general wellbeing.

Some treatment centres have exercise physiologists and physiotherapists who are specially trained in exercise interventions for people with medical conditions and injuries.

What to expect?

To help avoid injury, start each session with a warm-up and finish with a cool-down. Do aerobic exercise at a level you are comfortable with. Aim to do 2–3 strength sessions each week, with rest days between sessions. To maintain flexibility, include 3–4 stretch sessions a week. 

What is the evidence?

Research suggests that exercise benefits most people both during and after cancer treatment.

To find an appropriate exercise program, ask your GP for a referral to an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20. YWCA Encore offers a free eight-week program of gentle waterbased exercise and relaxation for people who have had breast cancer. For more details, visit YMCA Encore.

This information was last reviewed in May 2018
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