Phone: 03 8822 3723

Cancer & Exercise - Why It Is So Important During Treatment

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 03 March 2016
Hits: 7432

Cancer in many countries is now rated as the number one cause of death. There is endless amount of research and money spent each year on trying to find a "cure" for this disease that is now responsible for approximately third of all deaths each year in countries like Australia and America. Many people regard this disease attributed to external factors beyond our control, when really, it is in most cases the end result of poor lifestyle choices and factors. Smoking, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, too much sun exposure are all factors that can create the perfect situation for cancer to be "born" and wreak havoc on the body. The difficulty in treating the disease, especially when it is diagnosed at an advanced stage is significant. Recent advances in cancer treatment have led to decrease in mortality with this disease but fighting cells that have degenerated to such a degree remains an extremely difficult task for the specialists working with these patients. One interesting factor is that the same methods used to prevent cancer such as improved nutrition, increase physical activity (in particular adding muscle mass), have also been very effective for helping patients during the treatment stage. One of the worst things you could do when diagnosed as having the disease is to become inactive and sedentary. This article we will share some of the reasons why exercise is so important.

Why Is Exercise So Important?

If you have just been diagnosed with Cancer many people think it would be more wise to rest and do nothing to allow the body to save it's energy for fighting the disease. It sounds logical right? Unfortunately Cancer loves the peace and quiet! It thrives on the lack of activity. For without the activity from exercise the body is unable to complete many of the functions needed to sustain optimal health with our essential organs. When we exercise the effect on the heart creates a series of changes to the system that increase oxygen absorption and energy production, lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, resulting in less inflammation and significant efficiency of the body as a whole.

It is fair to say exercise is a powerful drug in it's own right! With regards to cancer exercise is so important because it creates a series of biochemical and physiological changes that make it very difficult for precancerous cells to survive and prevent them from developing into a more adult growth. This means that even though you have been diagnosed you can prevent any cells still in their immature stage from developing into their killer adult form. Your treatment will now have a better chance at trying to resolve the advanced cells without having the distraction of a new army being formed! Read our article on heart health.

Add on top of this the benefits of exercise for controlling blood glucose and the role of insulin. The muscles of active people absorb blood sugar in response to insulin much more effectively helping the pancreas to secrete lower amounts of this hormone and reduce its harmful effect on the growth of cancer cells. This decreases your Diabetes risk considerably which for people who may in fact get on top of cancer are often left with diabetes. The harmful effects of sugar cannot be overstated here for the original cause of cancer, and ensuring you can do everything in your power to suppress this is essential for your treatment to take effect.

Eliminating sugar from your diet many people will be able to do, but in some cases the horse has already bolted and now you need more muscle to help regulate the effect of the out of control hormones. Other Hormones such as testosterone and estrogen are completely disrupted with a lack of exercise in particular a lack of muscle. Too much estrogen has been linked to the development of breast cancer.

Why Our Modern Lifestyle Is Killing Us

Most people regard getting diagnosed with cancer as bad luck or due to the fact that we now live longer and it is inevitable due to our longer life expectancy. If you are not sure just how different our health is now versus 100 years ago, and you think we are healthier now, take a look at the pictures below to see the difference in Chronic Disease from 1900 to 2010. You can reference these stats and more from the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention.

These current trends can be traced to many things, most noticeably poor nutrition and lack of exercise and physical activity. I explore this in great detail in our article on Personal Training & Who Needs It The Most

At the start of 1900 we were much more active than we are now. No computers to sit behind for hours, no cars, we would have walked everywhere, no central heating or air conditioning. Chopping up firewood or just doing your washing would be regarded as a workout for many people these days but back then it was just normal. Processed foods in particular the sugar laden foods that are so easily purchased and eaten in high quantities did not exist. Many of the indigenous races such as Aboriginals did not even have a name for Cancer as a disease because it did not exist!

That is true for all races across the world which you can read about by reading the book "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" by Weston A Price. With the advent of modern processed foods is the same time that Cancer and Heart Disease began their rapid rise to the top of the list of mortality. So why we managed to find cures for infectious diseases like Polio and Malaria, and unfortunately we became blind to the benefits of just moving around and eating simple foods. The medications, vaccines that were very successful with Polio and other infectious diseases now have us relying on modern science to come up with another "cure" instead of changing our habits and poor choices. Through changing these poor choices and habits we can help prevent the disease, and also improve the chances of healing the disease if you already have it.

Okay so we have established that exercise is great for controlling many things. Let's discuss which is the best type of exercise.

What Is The Best Type Of Exercise?

This is a great question as many people when the hear the word exercise think of running, cycling or some form of movement that gets you sweaty and puffed out. This is what refer to as Fitness training but not necessarily Health training. When you are in a position of poor health your body is going into what is called a Catabolic State, or stress response. When it does this it begins to basically eat itself! And as we already discussed the loss of muscle mass begins to play havoc with your hormones and the ability to regulate blood sugars to prevent the onset of diabetes.

According to new research Men with stronger muscles from regular weight training are up to 40 percent less likely to die from cancer.

I found the results of this study from an article on Dr Mercola's website and studies like this have a lot of merit due to the length of time and the amount of people involved. Quite often research we see in magazines and what even Universities base course content on is from limited people and over short time frames. Anyway the findings are identical to what we have seen working with clients for over 15 years.

That muscular strength is as important as staying slim and eating healthy when it comes to protecting your body against deadly diseases or on this case cancer.

A team of experts tracked the lifestyles of over 8,500 men for more than two decades. Each volunteer had regular medical check ups that included tests of their muscular strength. The men who regularly worked out with weights and had the highest muscle strength were between 30 percent and 40 percent less likely to lose their life to a deadly tumor. Even among volunteers who were overweight, regular weight training seemed to have a protective effect, although the researchers stressed that keeping a healthy weight was still crucial for avoiding premature death. But they added, "In the light of these results, it is equally important to maintain healthy muscular strength levels.

Researchers said it’s possible to reduce cancer mortality rates in men by promoting resistance training involving the major muscle groups at least two days a week.


During cancer treatment it is common for a loss of muscle mass to occur. Now if you were starting off from little muscle mass to begin with due to inactivity or the fact you are over the age of 50 you will now accelerate this loss even more! And apart from the hormone dysfunction created you will now begin to experience other physical problems that you never had before such as back pain, knee pain etc. Strength training can halt this process, even reverse it!

But you must start now and never stop!

Other Benefits Of Strength Training

The amazing benefits of strength training do not stop with the improvement of hormones, blood sugar and various other health changes. Without doubt it is the single most important activity any one over the age of 40 should be doing. The older you are, the more sick or injured you are the more important it is! You must think of exercise and in particular strength training as medicine, and not as a luxury you could maybe add in to your lifestyle. It should be right up the top with good nutrition as the most important tasks to do regarding your health.

If I have not yet convinced you then take a look at the list of benefits you can achieve from doing a strength program 2-3 times per week of only 30-45 minutes each session!

  • Increases your bone density while lowering your risk of osteoporosis
  • Lose weight (the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolic rate and the more efficiently your body burns calories)
  • Protects your joints from injury
  • Helps maintain flexibility and balance
  • Improves your stamina and lessens fatigue


You can also read many of our articles on our website below to help give you a better idea as to why we regard Strength Training to be so important in managing and preventing many of the health issues we see today.

Great articles to read with more information on this are shown below

What About Nutrition & Lifestyle Habits?

At No Regrets Personal Training we pride ourselves in taking an "attack from all angles" approach to all health problems. What I mean by this is that you try to tackle your problem by eliminating all the possible contributing factors. For example, we add exercise, we improve nutrition, we devise strategies to improve the rest and recovery process, we help you define where stress may be sabotaging your plans and put a plan in place to overcome this. For if we just add exercise and ignore the fact you may be going to bed too late or are not eating enough vegetables your health plan is very limited in being successful.

The importance of eliminating sugar, increasing the intake of vegetables in particular green leafy vegetables is paramount to the success of the program. Make no mistake Sugar is the real cause of most people's problems. The fact that it is hidden in so many foods and that it is highly addictive is how it causes so much harm so quickly. Having a program to help you plan and prepare better meals without craving more sugar in some cases enables people so much more energy to do exercise, handle their stress and really turn things around.

Again we have stacks of information on our website about Sugar, Fructose and our programs go into great detail how to structure your program effectively for health. Below is some of our popular articles to read.

Do You Need More Help?

Make sure you get a copy of our detailed report below that features everything you need to know about improving your overall heart health. I created this report to include ALL of the specific exercises and foods to eat for treating and preventing various chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Click here to download your instant PDF copy.


I hope this article has convinced you that exercise is just as valuable to you as medication and your cancer treatment. By improving all the factors you are in control of such as nutrition, exercise, getting to bed on time and managing stress you give your body every chance to heal itself! This is what I mean by attacking from all angles. You are taking on this disease from as many areas at once, a bit like having a bet on every horse in a horse race. The chances of winning are much better if you have a bet on 8 of the 12 horses as opposed to only one. Your Oncologist, Doctor, or specialist who is working with you during your treatment will be able to do so much more as your are giving your body the building blocks to build reserves and fight the disease.

Also you must bear in mind that if you do get on top of the disease you do not want to be left with other problems such as diabetes or significant joint problems due to a loss of muscle mass. Exercise and food are both medicines in their own right. The more effort you put into getting this right the better your chances are at beating cancer and getting your life back.

If you live in Melbourne and would like to know more about our programs please click the image below to organize a free consultation.

About The Author

Nick Jack is owner of No Regrets Personal Training and has over 15 years’ experience as a qualified Personal Trainer, Level 2 Rehabilitation trainer, CHEK practitioner, and Level 2 Sports conditioning Coach. Based in Melbourne Australia he specialises in providing solutions to injury and health problems for people of all ages using the latest methods of assessing movement and corrective exercise.


  • Preventing Cancer - By Richard Beliveau & Denis Gingras
  • Cancer Council
  • Obesity and cancer. Wolin KY, Carson K, Colditz GA Oncologist. 2010; 15(6):556-65.
  • Weston A Price Foundation
  • Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute 
  • Movement - By Gray Cook
  • Functional Training for Sports - By Mike Boyle
  • Corrective Exercise Solutions - by Evan Osar
  • How To Eat, Move & Be Healthy by Paul Chek
  • Precision Nutrition 
  • Nutrition & Physical Degeneration - By Weston A Price
  • Big Fat Lies - By David Gillespie