Making fitness and diet a priority for cancer patients

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Winter 23-7-2012

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia

Publication Place



Breaking down the barriers to engage in fitness is a major challenge for cancer survivors seeking an improved quality of life, according to the Program Manager of Notre Dame's Cancer Survivorship Program, Eric Martin.

Mr Martin, a Bibra Lake resident, is currently analysing the data of individuals that participated in his recent 10-week cancer survivor rehabilitation program. He said the preliminary findings highlighted the imperative for all people to make exercise a priority.

Mr Martin was one of four students who spoke at a recent event, Keeping Healthy After Cancer, which was hosted by The University of Notre Dame Australia's Institute for Health and Rehabilitation Research.

The evening provided an opportunity for people who participated in the study to gain further insight into how they could lead healthier lives and measures to prevent the onset of new cancerous cells forming.

The Cancer Survivorship Program examines the level of intensity of the exercise program and whether it delivers any short or long term effects in the quality of life for breast and prostate cancer survivors.

Mr Martin hopes his research will provide the evidence needed to recommend specific program guidelines for prescribing exercise and structures to enhance long-term lifestyle change in cancer survivors.

He said that patients who failed to maintain their exercise regime returned to pre-intervention levels or slightly worse as reflected in studies conducted by renowned epidemiologist Dr Steven Blair from the University of South Carolina.

"Based on Dr Blair's findings, the magnitude of loss in fitness from the people not maintaining a strict exercise regime may equate to missing out on as much as a decade of life expectancy," Mr Martin said.

"It is very possible for people to keep healthy after cancer. The main problem is breaking down barriers to engaging in fitness, which for people generally means restructuring their lives to make fitness a priority rather than work.

"We still have some follow up assessments to come and what we're hoping to show is that the way we have structured our program, with the exercise and counselling components together, provides the skills and motivation to keep people going after they finish the program."

A Graduate Diploma of Exercise and Sports Science student, Amanda Tobitt, researched the important role of maintaining a healthy diet during and after cancer treatment.

She said that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables could reduce the chances of cancer reforming.

"By ensuring one eats a well balanced diet so they can receive all the essential vitamins and minerals to help boost the immune system is extremely important," Ms Tobitt said.

"Eating during treatment can be challenging. When eating becomes difficult, food can be replaced with other forms of nutrition, such as a smoothie, which will be easier for the patient to consume."

Other topics discussed at the seminar by presenters Sarah Hughes and Linda Garrett included 'Ways to keep fit and active' and 'Looking after yourself emotionally'.

For more information about the Cancer Survivorship Program at Notre Dame, please contact the Institute for Health and Rehabilitation Research on (08) 9433 0206.

MEDIA CONTACT: Michelle Ebbs: Tel (08) 9433 0610; Mob 0408 959 138 Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093