High intensity exercise improves the health of bowel cancer survivors

Physical Activity - running

High intensity exercise is significantly more effective in improving the health of bowel cancer survivors than moderate intensity exercise, a new study has found.

The UQ, Cancer Council and Griffith University study* is the first to compare the different effects of moderate and high intensity exercise on fitness and body composition in any cancer survivorship population.

Menzies Foundation Professor of Allied Health Research, Professor Suzanne Chambers, said the four-week exercise program highlighted significant differences in health outcomes.

“This trial is the first to demonstrate improvements in both physiological performance and body composition following aerobic, high intensity exercise in cancer survivors,” Prof Chambers said.

“While the high intensity training led to significant increases in lean mass and reductions in fat mass and body fat percentage, no changes were observed for the moderate intensity exercise group.

“Our study shows high intensity exercise offers superior improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and body composition compared to current physical activity recommendations for bowel cancer survivors.

“These findings may lead to clinically meaningful improvements in bowel cancer prognosis.”

47 bowel cancer survivors participated in the study, which found 12 sessions of high intensity exercise completed over four weeks was significantly more effective than moderate intensity exercise.

The high intensity exercise sessions included a 10 minute warm-up, then four sessions of four minute bouts of cycling at 85-95 per cent heart rate peak, followed by a three minute period of active recovery at 50 to 70 per cent heart rate peak.

The moderate intensity exercise sessions consisted of 50 minutes of cycling at 50-70 per cent heart rate peak.

Current guidelines for cancer survivors recommend exercise in accordance with general physical activity guidelines – 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise per week.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift encouraged all eligible Queenslanders to help detect bowel cancer early, by participating in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

“In Queensland, only about 35 per cent of invited, eligible Queenslanders return a completed bowel cancer screen kit,” Ms Clift said.

“It’s vital that all eligible Queenslanders complete the test – when detected early, bowel cancer is curable in about 90 per cent of cases.”

More than 2900 Queenslanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, and about 1000 die from the disease.

Bowel cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in Queensland, but the second biggest cancer killer.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available via 13 11 20 or cancerqld.org.au.


For more information or interviews, please contact:
Katie Clift,
Executive Manager,
Media and Spokesperson,
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5372
Mobile: 0409 001 171