How can exercise help manage chronic illness?

By CCIWA Editor 

Getting active can be an important part of living with diabetes, cancer and other common health conditions, writes CCIWA Member Medibank.

We’ve all heard about the benefits of regular exercise: stronger bones and muscles, an increase in energy, and the ability to better cope with stress and anxiety. But did you know that exercise can also be one of your greatest assets when it comes to managing a range of chronic diseases? 

Heart conditions 

It’s natural to worry that over exerting yourself might aggravate a newly diagnosed heart condition. However, exercise has so many benefits for your health. Activities that get you moving without putting too much pressure on the heart, like walking, are generally safe for most people. It’s all about building up slowly to the recommended amount of exercise each week for your age. Make sure you speak with your GP or health professional about a safe exercise program for you before starting. 


According to the National Asthma Council Australia, you shouldn’t let asthma get in the way of being physically active. In fact, some of our most successful national sports stars manage this condition. 

People with asthma can take their pick when it comes to exercise and team sports, as long as they’re aware of their environment. Certain conditions like dry or cold air, high-pollen or high-dust days are best avoided. A proper warm-up and cool-down are essential and just to be safe, develop an asthma action plan with your GP in case symptoms do flare up. 

Cancer Australia recommends that people with cancer take part in regular physical activity where possible before and after their treatment, by starting small with a gentle form of exercise such as walking or tai chi, and then gradually build up from there. Regular exercise may be particularly beneficial for those experiencing fatigue during their treatment or recovery, and could improve their mental wellbeing, physical function and quality of life during this challenging time. 

Before starting an exercise program, it’s important that people with cancer chat to their health professional about any precautions they may need to take. 


Exercise has very specific benefits for people with diabetes. It can help insulin to work more effectively and this improves your ability to manage the disease. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your blood pressure. 

Diabetes Australia does advise that you should avoid exercise any time you’re feeling unwell, or have ketones present in your blood or urine. 


For other chronic conditions like arthritis, when and what type of exercise could benefit you is highly dependent on the type of arthritis you have. You can find out more at Arthritis Australia’s website, 

Training with a professional 

It’s common for your confidence to take a big hit after a disease diagnosis. If you think you’d benefit from some guidance to get you going, try an exercise and rehabilitation centre, or a few sessions with a qualified fitness instructor who has specific training in disease management. 

 As a CCIWA Member, your organisation and employees are eligible to access Medibank corporate health cover at a discounted rate. If you are interested to find out more email [email protected]. 

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