All cancer patients – regardless of the type of their illness – should be prescribed exercise as part of their treatment, according to the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA).

In a position statement published this month, COSA said that to not encourage patients to take part in physical activity would be "harmful" to their health and recovery.

Endorsed by a group of 25 health and cancer organisations, including Cancer Council Australia, the statement – published on the COSA website – is believed to be the first researcher-led recommendation anywhere in the world to call for exercise to be an essential component of treatment.

"Clinical research has established exercise as a safe and effective intervention to counteract many of the adverse physical and psychological effects of cancer and its treatment," the document states.

"To date, the strongest evidence exists for improving physical function (including aerobic fitness, muscular strength and functional ability), attenuating cancer related fatigue, alleviating psychological distress and improving quality of life across multiple general health and cancer-specific domains.

"Emerging evidence highlights that regular exercise before, during and/or following cancer treatment decreases the severity of other adverse side effects and is associated with reduced risk of developing new cancers and comorbid conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis."

According to the document's lead author, professor Prue Cormie from the Australian Catholic University, all people with cancer should look to participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week.

This should be accompanied by two to three resistance exercise sessions each week, involving moderate to vigorous-intensity exercises targeting the major muscle groups.

The COSA report also highlights how cancer sufferers are currently highly unlikely to be meeting the recommended levels of exercise. Approximately 60 to 70 per cent of people with cancer do not meet aerobic exercise guidelines, while up to 90 per cent do not meet resistance exercise guidelines.

"Exercise is the best medicine someone with cancer can take in addition to their standard cancer treatments," Cormie said.

"That's because we know now that people who exercise regularly experience fewer and less severe treatment side-effects; cancer related fatigue, mental distress, quality of life."

To read the COSA position statement in full, click here.