Press release

Exercise programme can help cancer patients return to work

Published on 19 February 2020

Regular exercise following cancer treatment can speed up a return to the workplace, University of Dundee research has found.

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Regular exercise following cancer treatment can speed up a return to the workplace, University of Dundee research has found.

A study of cancer patients found that undertaking a tailored fitness plan, coupled with access to a cancer exercise specialist and gym membership, made people more active and improved their quality of life, with participants citing improved flexibility.

The Working and Cancer Dundee project, conducted by the University’s Institute of Sport and Exercise (ISE) and supported by national charity Breast Foot Forward, focused on how exercise affected the wellbeing of people recovering from treatment as they prepared to return to work.

“Returning to work following a cancer diagnosis can be particularly daunting,” said Hazel Ednie, ISE’s Active Living Programme Manager and Project Coordinator.

“This research has found that exercise, along with support from a cancer exercise instructor, can help to manage the side effects of cancer treatment and positively influence when a person can return to work.

“The work we did with participants focused on gym-based exercise and yoga, which helped to make a great contribution to their quality of life, and under one-to-one tuition they also noted that they felt less fatigued. Our participants said that this improved their ability to work and their self-confidence.”

It is estimated that around 890,000 people of working age in the UK are living with cancer, with around 125,000 employees diagnosed each year. Side effects of treatment can include fatigue, low mobility and a lack of confidence, with the Working and Cancer Dundee study attempting to determine if regular exercise could speed up a participant’s return to the workplace.

Recruits had to have been diagnosed within the past 12 months and been looking to return to work. Ranging from ages 32-60, the six women and one man took part in 12 one-to-one sessions with a specialist fitness instructor. The second phase of the study provided participants with a complimentary nine-month ISE membership, allowing them to continue exercising at their leisure, with their attendance monitored.

Throughout the study, volunteers were asked to fill out questionnaires providing feedback on their programme and its impact on their health and workability.

“Following the end of the one-to-one sessions there was a drop-off in attendance,” Hazel added.


“The main reason given for this was work commitments, but people said that they were remaining active in other ways and that their motivation remained high. That is very encouraging. Exercise is hugely positive both physically and psychologically and is linked to a reduced risk of recurrence in anyone who has had cancer.

“This may only have been a small study but the feedback we have received is incredibly important in supporting people back to work through exercise intervention.”


Jonathan Watson

Senior Press Officer

+44 (0)1382 381489
Story category Research