February 5, 2018

The importance of exercise in lung cancer treatment

Ismini Dandanis, Director/Senior Exercise Physiologist, InForm Health & Exercise

A diagnosis of lung cancer brings challenges, emotions, time away from work and family, a new routine and possible side effects from your medication. Exercise may be the last component of treatment that you are likely to consider. Let’s talk about why it is important, how it can help and what it means in the long-term.

Exercise, such as pulmonary rehabilitation or Lung Foundation Australia’s Lungs in Action program, is an integral part of a treatment plan at any stage in addressing the physical and psycho-social components of holistic healthcare. It should be considered when discussing your treatment plan with your General Practitioner (GP) or specialist. Exercise professionals, such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist or physiotherapist, have the training and expertise to provide individually tailored exercise programs at any stage of lung cancer treatment. Exercise is often an under-utilised form of treatment, however with the right guidance and supervision from an exercise professional, you can reach an improved level of overall health and wellbeing.

Symptoms commonly experienced by people with lung cancer include shortness of breath, fatigue and lethargy. A structured exercise program will help to improve and reduce these symptoms by strengthening muscles, joints and bones, as well as assist in building endurance through specific breathing exercises. Surgery and related pharmacological treatments can often have side-effects that may impact your health and overall quality of life. This is where exercise is integral to managing side effects and help recovery in the treatment phase. Exercise aims to improve overall lung function and conditioning as well as increase efficiency of breathing.

An exercise program for those with lung cancer includes aerobic, strength, balance and flexibility type exercises. Some of the benefits may include:

  • Reduced shortness of breath
  • Reduced fatigue and improved sleep quality and quantity
  • Improved mood and reduced levels of anxiety
  • Opportunity for social interaction with others in a similar situation.

To find out more about pulmonary rehabilitation or Lungs in Action, please contact Lung Foundation Australia.