Cancer and Exercise — Joanne Henritze, MS, CEP

Joanne is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist who has been involved with the design, implementation and evaluation of therapeutic exercise programs for patients with chronic disease for over 25 years. She is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a Program Director, Clinical Exercise Specialist and an Exercise Test Technologist. She has presented both nationally and internationally. In a clinical exercise setting she provides guidance, support and friendship through all stages of treatment and recovery. She meets you as a patient and you leave as a friend.


Today there are more than 15.5 million cancer survivors thanks to advances in cancer prevention and treatment. A cancer diagnosis is scary, overwhelming and life changing! Survivors need guidance to help them deal with all of the medical, physical, social and psychological issues that often occur with this chronic disease. Survivors need to be empowered and they need to know they can do something in their own behalf. Cancer Survivorship/Rehabilitation Programs can help people on this journey.


Scientific research has shown that exercise can have a positive effect in reducing many of the side effects associated with cancer and cancer treatment. These include profound fatigue, depression, anxiety, loss of muscle mass and strength, impaired range of motion, cardiorespiratory deficits, changes in balance and proprioception, neuropathy (nerve damage) memory and cognitive problems (chemo-brain), alterations to hormones, immune suppression, nausea, osteoporosis, and weight gain.

Individualized exercise programs consider the type and stage of cancer and their treatment protocols, past medical history and most importantly what is important and pertinent to the individual cancer survivor. Therapeutic exercise programs generally include aerobic conditioning, resistance training, core strengthening, balance and proprioception training, flexibility and range of motion exercises.

Therapeutic Exercise after Treatment

Recent studies have shown that exercise can actually improve survival. 

3000 women in the Nurses Health Study diagnosed with Stage I-III breast cancer between 1984 and 1998; followed thru 2002: Risk of death form breast cancer was reduced in women who were physically active. Their survival at 10 years was 92% compared with 85% in their sedentary counterparts. (Holmes et al. JAMA,2005;239(20):2479-2486)

With 150 minutes of moderate exercise post diagnosis:

  • Breast Cancer 24% reduction in mortality
  • Colon Cancer 28% reduction in Mortality

Compared to those who did not change activity level. (Systematic Review and Meta Analysis , Schmid et al., 2014, Annals of Oncology, 25(7): 1293-1311)

Maintain or Attain a Normal BMI After Cancer Diagnosis.  Weight gain is associated with a worse prognosis and 40-50% greater risk of relapse.

We know that people want to partner and participate in their recovery. We can provide a roadmap, encouragement, knowledge and hope.