Exercise works

“Now that we have a little data and the results are valid, oncology nurses should feel confident that exercise is going to help their patients,” Dr Musanti said. “The Oncology Nursing Society has a brief educational program to inform nurses about exercise in the oncology population. If there is no Livestrong program in their area, nurses should look for cancer exercise programs run by people certified as cancer exercise trainers. The American College of Sports Medicine has a certification program for people who have been in exercise science or the exercise field. The value is that you will know that the individual is knowledgeable about the contraindications to exercise in the cancer patient.

“Until there are exercise programs in the cancer world that are reimbursed the way cardiac rehab is reimbursed, providers have to put programs together in this patchwork way,” Dr Musanti added. Patients cannot simply go to a gym. If there are no certified trainers, patients should be should directed to sites such as the American Cancer Society, the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, or the American College of Sports Medicine. These all have valuable information about exercise focused on safety for cancer survivors.

The dreaded E-word

When a patient resists the idea of exercise, Dr Musanti said part of the problem is with the word “exercise,” and recommends using the word “activity” instead. Patients’ activity does not have to feel like exercise. She said to frame the suggestion in such a way that people are encouraged to increase their physical activity by doing the things that they normally do every day: walking around the house, going out and getting the mail, walking the dog. Over the course of the day, people will have been moving a little more than they had before. Short bouts of increased physical activity for as little as 10 minutes at a time can be quite helpful.

“I wish we had a nurse or someone in each oncology office who would be able to look at a patient and say, ‘This is where you are in your recovery. And this is what you should do. Take it slowly and I’ll talk to you next week. Move a little bit more than you were moving before,’” said Dr Musanti. This is an important subject for nurses to think about and to make suggestions on.

Bette Weinstein Kaplan is a medical writer based in Tenafly, New Jersey.


1. Musanti R, Chao Y, Collins K. Fitness and quality of life outcomes of cancer survivor participants in a community exercise program. J Adv Pract Oncol 2019;10(1):24-37.

2. Physical Activity Basics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/index.htm. Last updated February 18, 2019. Accessed March 25, 2019.

3. Livestrong at the YMCA. Livestrong website. https://www.livestrong.org/what-we-do/program/livestrong-at-the-ymca. Accessed March 25, 2019.