Exercise & Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer develops from the inner lining of the bowel and is usually preceded by growths called polyps. Polyps are usually harmless, however can become cancerous if left undetected. Bowel cancer can be referred to as colon cancer or rectum cancer depending on where the cancer is located.

Bowel cancer is a major cause of morbidity and mortality throughout the world and was the third most common cancer in Australia in 2017. Bowel cancer is widely accepted as an environmental disease which includes social, cultural and lifestyle risk factors. Such risk factors can include; obesity, nutritional practices, cigarette smoking, heavy alcohol consumption and low levels of physical activity. Prominent signs and symptoms of bowel cancer include changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation), blood in stool, abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, rectal pain, weight loss, a lump in the rectum, fatigue or unexplained anaemia. 

Bowel cancer can be diagnosed via a number or tests such as blood tests, colonoscopy, CT or MRI scan, PET scan or ultrasound. Screening for bowel cancer is recommended for individuals aged 50-74 years of age and is offered for free every two years by the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. 

Exercise and Bowel Cancer

Exercise and physical activity play a vital role in cancer prevention and control. Cancer patients are recommended to avoid inactivity and return to normal daily activities as soon as possible after surgery or treatment. Cancer patients are advised to be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow, if unable to meet the physical activity guidelines. 

The physical activity guidelines for individuals with chronic conditions such as cancer, recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise on a weekly basis, in combination with two-three days of strength training. Modes of exercise can include walking, jogging, cycling, rowing, x-trainer, strength training such as Kieser, stretching and balance exercises. 

Research has demonstrated that regular physical activity can reduce the overall incidence of colon cancer by 24% in both men and women. Further health benefits of regular physical activity for cancer patients can include; improved health related quality of life, psychological wellbeing, aerobic fitness, muscular strength, physical functioning, mobility, independence as well as and reduced inflammation, insulin resistance and cancer related fatigue. 

Exercise for patients with bowel cancer should be prescribed by an Allied health professional such as an Exercise Physiologist. An Exercise Physiologist will take into consideration cancer patients pre-treatment aerobic fitness, medical comorbidities, response to treatment, and the immediate or persistent negative effects of treatment.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Bowel Cancer, please visit your Exercise Physiologist today to discuss the right exercise program that is tailored to your specific needs. 

Article written and sourced by Kieser Brighton Exercise Physiologist, Ben Milner


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