Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer (also known as Colorectal) is cancer developing in the inner lining of the large bowel, including the colon and rectum. With 1 in 11 males and 1 in 15 females at risk of being diagnosed with this cancer by the age of 85, it is the second most common cancer in both men and women in Australia. Upon diagnosis, a variety of surgical, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy treatments are commonly utilised, each of which have significant side effects.


Significant research has shown that exercise is essential during and post any cancer treatment to assist in management of side effects and improving quality of life.


Although limited research, the emerging evidence indicates significant improvements in preventing physiological decline, assisting management of fatigue and  promoting restoration of quality of life during treatment cycles. Furthermore, post-treatment exercise has the ability to restore livelihood and physical function to complete activities of daily living prior to diagnosis.

prescribing exercise


  • Any surgery or treatment have the ability to affect our bladder or bowel continence . If this affects you, let your practitioner know to allow for toilet breaks.
  • Fatigue can come in waves, if you feel fatigued some exercise is better than none, your AEP will be able to cater to you throughout treatment. OR “Patients receiving chemotherapy may experience fluctuating periods of sickness and fatigue during treatment cycles that require frequent modifications to exercise prescription, such as reducing intensity and/or duration of the exercise session”
  • Short bouts of exercise may be more suited to begin with, this can be progressively increased as your fitness improves.
  • Avoid pushing through any pain, especially in the abdominal region. It is important to start slowly when beginning an exercise program, and avoid pushing into stronger pain. It is often useful to use the 0-10 scale to monitor your pain levels while exercising.



Exercise Right recommends combining multiple forms of exercise for Bowel cancer, including:

Strengthening/Functional exercises

To help build maintain and restore muscles that are important for mobility and physical function, for example, squats, wall push ups or sit to stands.


Aerobic exercises

To help improve our ability to maintain movements without becoming out of breath and decrease side-effects of anti-cancer therapy. Walking, swimming or bike riding provide a form of aerobic exercise, the intensity should start of at a low-moderate level working up to high- intensity training as our aerobic capacity increases.



Stretching or ROM exercises of all major muscle groups also addressing specific areas of joint of muscle restriction that may have resulted from treatment with steroids, radiation, or surgery. For example, 4 repetitions of 10 to 30 seconds per stretch for flexibility.




Exercise Right also recommends attending a Cancer Rehab Program at a rehabilitation centre or private practice where there is multidisciplinary team of Medical and Allied Health professionals who are skilled in the treatment and management of cancer.




Oncology Rehabilitation Groups

There are cancer exercise  programs run out of private and public rehabilitation centres across Australia. You may have the ability to join a group exercise session, which can provide support, advice and assistance from similar patients, whilst completing your tailored exercise program.




Do not exercise:

  • If you are unwell or have a stomach bug which is causing diarrhoea or incontinence
  • Abdominal pain.