- Cancer Information
- Living well
- Complementary therapies
- The role of exercise and nutrition
- How exercise and a balanced diet can help
How exercise and a balanced diet can help
See below to learn how exercise and a balanced diet can help people affected by cancer.
Learn more about:
How exercise can help
Why it is useful
Research shows that exercise benefits most people both during and after cancer treatment. It increases energy levels, improves sleep, reduces treatment-related muscle loss, improves bone and muscle strength, improves mobility and balance, relieves stress, and decreases fatigue, anxiety and depression.
What to expect
The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia recommends that people with cancer do:
- at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes (1¼ hours) of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise every week
- 2–3 strength-training (resistance exercise) sessions a week to build muscle strength.
How to exercise safely
- Before taking part in any exercise program, it is important to talk to your cancer care team or GP about any precautions you should take. Ask about the amount and type of exercise that is right for you.
- Exercise professionals, such as an accredited exercise physiologist or physiotherapist, can develop an exercise program to meet your specific needs and show you how to exercise safely. Some treatment centres have professionals who are specially trained in exercise interventions for people with cancer.
- To find a physiotherapist, visit choose.physio/find-a-physio.
- To find an accredited exercise physiologist, visit Exercise and Sports Science Australia.
How a balanced diet can help
Why it is useful
Cancer and its treatment both place extra demands on the body.
Research shows that eating well before, during and after treatment can help you cope better with treatment side effects and speed up recovery, increase energy and maintain wellbeing.
What to expect
Cancer Council recommends that most people with cancer follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines, and:
- eat a balanced diet from the 5 food groups – fruit, vegetables and legumes, wholegrains, meat (or alternatives) and dairy (or alternatives)
- limit foods containing saturated fat, added salt and added sugars, avoid sugary drinks, and limit alcohol.
How to eat well
For some people, it is not always possible to eat well during cancer treatment. You may find it hard to eat enough or you may have trouble eating some foods. This may mean that your food choices need to be different from the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
An accredited practising dietitian can:
- help ensure you meet your nutritional needs
- give you tailored advice on your food choices, nutrition and how to cope with any eating problems you may experience
- assist in managing side effects.
If you find swallowing food and drink difficult, a speech pathologist can help.
- To find an accredited practising dietitian, visit Dietitians Australia.
- To find a certified practising speech pathologist, visit Speech Pathology Australia.
Our exercise video series
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr David Joske, Clinical Haematologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and PathWest, Chairman and Founder Solaris Cancer Care Foundation, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The University of Western Australia, WA; Australasian Integrative Medicine Association (AIMA); Dr Robert Blum, Clinical Director, Cancer Services, Bendigo Health, NSW; Sally Brooks, Senior Pharmacist, Medicines Information, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Suzanne Grant, Senior Research Fellow, NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Prof Danforn Lim, Adjunct Professor and Advisory Board Member, NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, and Adjunct Professor, UTS, NSW; Christina Line, Statewide Services Senior Coordinator, Cancer Council WA; Jen McKenzie, Physiotherapist (Lymphoedema) and ESSA Accredited Exercise Physiologist, The McKenzie Clinic, QLD; Simone Noelker, Wellness Centre and Pastoral Care Manager, Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Nirzari Pandit, General Practitioner, RACGP Specific Interests Integrative Medicine Group, NSW; Georgie Pearson, Consumer; Cris Pirone, Counsellor, Cancer Council SA; Dr Elysia Thornton-Benko, Specialist General Practitioner, and UNSW Research Fellow, NSW; Kirsty Trebilcock, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA.
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