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Expert Panel: Cancer Treatment Plans Should Include Tailored Exercise Prescriptions

WVU faculty Dr. Nicole Stout to serve on national steering committee

Expert Panel: Cancer Treatment Plans Should Include Tailored Exercise Prescriptions

Morgantown, WV – New guidance published this week from exercise oncology experts recommend systematic use of an “exercise prescription” by health care workers and fitness professionals in designing and delivering exercise programs that aim to lower the risk of developing certain cancers and best meet the needs, preferences, and abilities of people with cancer. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) convened a roundtable of experts from 17 partner organizations, which included WVU Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute—part of the National Institutes of Health, to review the latest scientific evidence and offer recommendations about the benefits of exercise for prevention, treatment, recovery and improved survival. 

“With more than 43 million cancer survivors worldwide, we have a growing need to address the unique health issues facing people living with and beyond cancer and better understand how exercise may help prevent and control cancer,” said ACSM Immediate Past President Katie Schmitz, Ph.D., FACSM, who co-chaired the roundtable. “This esteemed, multidisciplinary group of leaders on the forefront of exercise oncology aimed to translate the latest scientific evidence into practical recommendations for clinicians and the public and to create global impact through a unified voice.”

Over 11,000 West Virginians are diagnosed with cancer each year. The majority of those who go through cancer treatments often suffer side effects that compromise their endurance and their ability to continue their daily activities. These new guidelines support the strong evidence for exercise interventions that improve those issues and positively impact many other problems that patients face during cancer treatment. As the largest comprehensive cancer center in the state, WVU Cancer Institute is committed to implementing evidence-based, guideline-concordant care for our residents and working with our partners state-wide to identify ways to bring these important findings to bear to positively impact our citizens. 

In West Virginia, nearly 29% of adults do not participate in leisure-time physical activity or exercise. These newly released guidelines emphasize the importance of physical activity for the prevention of cancer, during treatment to counter fatigue, depression, and other side effects, and following completion of cancer treatment. The office of Cancer Prevention and Control encourages people to read the guidelines, talk with their health care providers, and get moving. Small steps can lead to better outcomes and improve overall health.

“Seeing a guideline come forward with this level of strength in the exercise evidence across the most common problems that individuals with cancer face like fatigue, depressive symptoms, and physical function, suggests that we must incorporate exercise into standard oncology care. As strong as our confidence is in recommending evidence-based drug therapies to treat the disease, we should be equally emphatic in our insistence on incorporating evidence-based exercise interventions to treat the person with the disease.” ~ Dr. Stout was an invited expert member of the ACSM Roundtable. 

The new evidence-based guidance and recommendations include:

  • For all adults, exercise is important for cancer prevention and specifically lowers risk of seven common types of cancer: colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, bladder, esophagus and stomach
  • For cancer survivors, incorporate exercise to help improve survival after a diagnosis of breast, colon and prostate cancer
  • Exercising during and after cancer treatment improves fatigue, anxiety, depression, physical function, quality of life and does not exacerbate lymphedema
  • Continue research that will drive the integration of exercise into the standard of care for cancer
  • Translate into practice the increasingly robust evidence base about the positive effects of exercise for cancer patients

The comprehensive review and recommendations are outlined in three academic papers published today in two scientific journals. “Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors: Consensus Statement from International Multidisciplinary Roundtable” and “American College of Sports Medicine Roundtable Report on Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Cancer Prevention and Control” published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, ACSM’s flagship research journal. The third paper, “Exercise Is Medicine in Oncology: Engaging Clinicians to Help Patients Move Through Cancer,” was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a flagship journal of the American Cancer Society.

Health care and fitness professionals should use the new recommendations when creating exercise programs for cancer patients and survivors. This includes formally and systematically using custom exercise prescriptions that best meet the needs, preferences and abilities of individuals living with and beyond cancer. Fitness professionals can obtain the Cancer Exercise Trainer certification collaboratively developed by ACSM and the American Cancer Society. Additionally, professionals and scientists should continue research that will drive the integration of exercise into the standard of care for cancer.

To implement the recommendation for translating evidence into practice, ACSM and its Exercise is Medicine (EIM) initiative also introduced a new program, Moving Through Cancer. The clinician-focused program aims to ensure that all people living with and beyond cancer are assessed, advised, referred to and engaged in appropriate exercise and rehabilitation programming as a standard of care. Resources are available for oncology clinicians and patients, including a global, searchable registry of exercise programs at

Partner organizations that participated in the roundtable include: ACSM, American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute—part of the National Institutes of Health,  American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, American College of Lifestyle Medicine, American Physical Therapy Association, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Commission on Accreditation for Rehabilitation Facilities, German Union for Health Exercise, Exercise and Sport Science Australia, Macmillan Cancer Support, National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Royal Dutch Society for Physical Therapy, Society of Surgical Oncology and Sunflower Wellness.

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About WVU Cancer Institute

The WVU Cancer Institute is West Virginia’s premier cancer facility with a national reputation of excellence in cancer treatment, prevention and research.  We pride ourselves on providing excellent care to our patients and their families while strengthening our research, education, and service programs to address the cancer health disparities unique to the state of West Virginia and Appalachia

About the American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 50,000 international, national and regional members are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to improve educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine. More details can be found at