Thousands of NHS patients already take part in cardiac rehabilitation programmes, as physical activity is known to help improve quality of life for people with heart problems.
Researchers from Stirling University have called for an equivalent programme for Scottish bowel cancer patients, after a study revealed significant increases in wellbeing, and improvements to anxiety and depression levels among the 41 patients who took part in a cardiac rehabilitiation programme.
The programme included aerobic and body strengthening exercises for about an hour each week for 12 weeks.
Dr Gill Hubbard, a reader in cancer care, said: “People recovering from bowel cancer surgery are not currently meeting the recommended levels of physical activity after they undergo surgery.
“This could be for a number of reasons, but often patients do not know if they are safe to exercise.”
Patients said they were more confident in exercising after surgery if they had taken part in the programme, the study in the Health Services and Delivery Research journal found.
Bowel cancer affects around 4,000 Scots per year.
Dr Hubbard said: “We found cardiac clinicians were happy to involve cancer patients in their programmes, but to make this work on a much larger scale additional training would be required to fully support cancer survivors.
“Although a novel idea, we believe marrying these two quite separate groups during the rehabilitation process could vastly improve the quality of life for lots of people who are recovering from bowel cancer but do not have the confidence to exercise.”
Cancer campaigners welcomed the findings but called for more research to ensure this level of exercise was safe for cancer patients.
A Cancer Research UK spokesperson said: “More evidence is emerging that shows that exercise is beneficial and safe for cancer patients and helps speed up recovery after treatment.
“It’s good to see research into new ways to ensure that exercise is on offer to people who have been treated for bowel cancer.
“We need to find out more about how this would work in practice before we can say whether this should be recommended widely.”