A New Era of Cancer & Exercise Research & Practice

Written By Daniel Santa Mina
Image of several people doing yoga

I started studying cancer and exercise as a kinesiology graduate student in 2006. Having been in this field for number of years, my goal has always been to make sure exercise becomes a part of standard care. Only recently have guidelines for prescribing exercise and physical activity in cancer patients been made available, giving some much needed momentum to achieve my goal. We’ve come a long way since I started, and we are just about there.

Research on cancer and exercise is only about 20 to 30 years old, which is pretty recent when it comes to research. When I first started in my graduate career doing exercise interventions for prostate cancer patients, we didn’t have many guidelines to work with at all. In fact, we used the safety guidelines from cardiovascular societies. We figured if it was safe for heart patients, it should be safe for prostate cancer patients but we really didn’t know if there were any significant consequences with cancer survivors. There were a few studies published here and there that gave us some indication that some low levels of exercise and low intensity activities were beneficial, but we really didn’t have our own guidelines.

It wasn’t until 2010 that the American College of Sports Medicine developed guidelines on how to prescribe exercise to cancer patients, which were first published in an academic journal only 2 years ago. While these guidelines are very similar to those used in cardiovascular care, we now have guidelines that are specific to cancer.

These specific guidelines have given us the credibility we need to move forward with exercise prescriptions for cancer patients. Over the past few years we’ve been working to launch the Wellness and Exercise for Cancer Survivors program at ELLICSR. Wellness and Exercise for Cancer Survivors program promotes active lifestyles for men and women diagnosed with cancer. We work with each participant to support their activity goals in ways that are appropriate, safe, enjoyable, sustainable, and ultimately successful at improving overall wellbeing. Our program is available to patients who have been diagnosed or treated at the Princess Margaret, but our website is available to anyone.

Yours in health,

Daniel Santa Mina, PhD, RKin