© 2018 The Pink Movement

Why we should be treating exercise as medicine

January 31, 2018


​​“If you could encapsulate the benefits of exercise in a pill, it would be the most widely prescribed medication in the world”, Professor Prue Cormie.


If you’re a regular listener to The Pink Movement Podcast you’d know just how passionate I am about exercise following a breast cancer diagnosis. Not only is it evidence based and PROVEN by research, but it is one of the very few things you can do for yourself to do your bit in fighting your cancer.


Prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 I was incredibly fit and active. I played basketball and netball, was a regular gym-goer, and walked my dog daily. Having grown up with this type of lifestyle I always understood the benefits of being fit and healthy.


After my diagnosis I knew I had to keep up with the exercise to keep my mind and body strong. However following a chat with my oncologist in the very early days, I found even more reasons to continue.


He made it very clear to me that by continuing to exercise it would help manage the side effects of chemotherapy and other medications, would help me recover post-treatment, and may even help prevent my cancer from returning. Now I don’t know about you, but hearing there is something I can do that might help me live longer was all the motivation I needed!


So…. during treatment, and regardless of how I felt, I would get out and do something every single day. Some days were better than others. One day it might be a 15 minute walk with the dog, while others I was able to get to the gym for a class or maybe even go for a shoot around at the local basketball court.


What was abundantly clear during this time was that this exercise was having significant benefits on both my physical and mental health.


My side-effects from the chemotherapy were nowhere near what others were having – I put that down to exercise.

I didn’t put on weight like so many others were during treatment – I put that down to exercise.

And mentally I was clear and focused on my recovery – I put that down to exercise.


So while I always knew exercise was important, it’s now always in my mind that I need to do it. Don’t get me wrong, some days all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and watch Sex and the City with some chocolate! But, if proven research tells me that getting off the couch and exercising can help reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence and genuinely help me live longer…..then I’m going to do it.


I recently spoke with Professor Prue Cormie who is an absolute ‘guru’ when it comes to cancer and exercise research. She was able to share so many great tips and bits of information that I believe can help us all.


For example….Did you know that people with cancer who are involved in greater levels of exercise have a lower relative risk of dying from their cancer, a much lower level risk of their cancer coming back and have even experienced fewer or less severe treatment related side effects??? That’s what the latest research is telling us. It’s also saying that exercise can slow tumours from growing and spreading.


Now I know the thought of exercising during treatment can be a bit daunting, but just check out the benefits of doing it below – why wouldn’t you?!


Benefits of exercising during treatment:

  • Ability to tolerate higher doses of chemotherapy

  • Strength and fitness remains at a higher level

  • Less cancer related fatigue

  • Energy levels are likely to be higher

  • Less impact on mood and stress

  • Better sleep quality

  • Less chemo brain!


In terms of how much exercise we should be doing, the recommended ‘dose’ is 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days a week (and this doesn’t have to be onerous, it can literally be a brisk walk and some gentle laps in the pool), and 2-3 resistance sessions a week (lifting weights at a moderate intensity). It’s important to do both of these things to achieve the benefits.


However, if this is all just too much, Professor Cormie also says any activity is better than none, and generally speaking, more is better than less. So basically just do what you can!


If the above seems a bit daunting to you, or if you’d like some professional advice on this, there are a couple of places you can turn to. You can:



The most important thing you can do is just get moving. Find what works for you and commit to moving every day. And that’s regardless of whether you’re just diagnosed, in the midst of treatment or surgeries, in recovery, or even 5 or 10 years down the track.


In the famous words of Nike....Just Do It!



LISTEN: Want to learn more? Check out The Pink Movement Podcast Episode 18 with Professor Prue Cormie where we talk all things cancer and exercise.




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