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Exercise treatment should be available to all people with cancer – charity claims

Press Contact

Emma Jacob


  • Yorkshire Cancer Research plans to take its Active Together service to people with cancer across the region
  • The independent charity aims to create the largest global research study of its kind

Exercise-based cancer treatment should be available to all people with cancer according to a charity pioneering its delivery across Yorkshire.

Yorkshire Cancer Research has recently opened a new centre in Harrogate to provide this treatment as the charity believes worldwide evidence demonstrates that it will save lives.

The service, known as Active Together, was designed for the charity by experts at Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre and is currently delivered in partnership with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust.

As an addition to hospital-led cancer treatment, Active Together aims to save lives by increasing treatment options, reducing side-effects and treatment complications, speeding up recovery and reducing the risk of cancer coming back.

Yorkshire Cancer Research plans to take the Active Together service to people across Yorkshire, creating the largest global study of this kind.

As well as giving people in Yorkshire the opportunity to benefit from the latest thinking in cancer treatment, the charity aims to demonstrate the lifesaving impact of tailored exercise programmes to the worldwide cancer research community and to those who deliver cancer treatment, including the National Health Service (NHS) whom it hopes will replicate the service across the country so that, in time, everyone who receives a cancer diagnosis can benefit.

Evidence that exercise is a fantastic additional treatment for cancer patients is compelling. So why wait when we can start providing this for people in Yorkshire whilst contributing to the knowledge and data being gathered elsewhere in the world?

“Every 17 minutes, someone in Yorkshire is told they have cancer. We believe it is vital that treatment such as this is available to everyone with cancer in this region, and we hope that one day this will be possible as part of standard NHS cancer care.

“But in the meantime, this charity is not going to wait while thousands of cancer patients are missing out on a treatment that could have a significant impact on their recovery.”

Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research

The new Yorkshire Cancer Research Centre in Harrogate began welcoming people to the service at the end of 2023. It has since supported 39 people. When combined with the people who have participated in the Active Together service being provided in Sheffield, more than 1000 people with cancer have already been offered this service.

The service offers free, personalised fitness, nutrition and wellbeing support to help people with cancer prepare for, respond to and recover after treatment.

My overall wellbeing has really benefited because I know that I struggle slightly with the side-effects of radiotherapy, like brain fog.

“Being part of this has definitely helped me mentally and physically, as my balance has been affected by the treatment and taking part in specially designed exercise classes has helped me enormously.

“It’s an absolutely fabulous service and everyone should be able to benefit from it.”

Active Together participant
Annette taking part in a one-to-one Active Together session

“It’s almost impossible to articulate how important it’s been to me”

Annette was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. Following her treatment she decided on a career change and volunteered at Yorkshire Cancer Research, before going on to work in one of the charity’s shops. Annette was diagnosed for a second time a couple of years later and decided she would like to take part in the Active Together service.

Gary Lovelace, 65, was diagnosed with cancer after noticing a lump in his side when he slipped in the bath. He started Active Together in Harrogate and said it’s had a positive impact following the side-effects of treatment.

The benefits of exercise are quite intuitive and natural and I think they are probably still being understated.

“For an organisation like Yorkshire Cancer Research to take on this research and see what we can do to help people not only in Yorkshire but far beyond is a wonderful and innovative thing.

“Despite having a positive outlook, cancer can feel a bit lonely and dark at times, and coming here, to a bright cheerful place, with bright cheerful people giving me activities, time and conversation, it is almost impossible to articulate how important it’s been to me.”

Active Together participant
Gary in a group gym studio at the Research Centre in Harrogate

Roll out across Yorkshire

In Summer 2024, Active Together will open to people with cancer at community leisure centres in Wakefield, Pontefract and Huddersfield. The service is being provided in partnership with Mid Yorkshire Teaching NHS Trust, Wakefield Council Aspire Health and Kirklees Active Leisure.

The service is also planned to be offered in Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham later this year. The rollout across South Yorkshire will be delivered in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust.

Funding is also being provided by Yorkshire Cancer Research to introduce Active Together through Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, which plans to use local community venues and mobile units to cover a wide area.

We know that prehabilitation and rehabilitation initiatives focused on physical activity, nutrition and psychological support can have significant benefits for people with a cancer diagnosis.

“The Active Together programme was designed around these principles, and since its launch, the service has supported over 1000 people to prepare for – and recover from – cancer treatment. It is fantastic that we are now able to expand the programme from its home at the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre to seven additional sites across Yorkshire.

“This will ensure thousands more patients are supported to independently manage their health and wellbeing throughout their treatment journey. The ultimate aim is to help improve patients’ long-term health outcomes and ultimately save lives across the region.”

Director at the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre

The Active Together Programme at the Yorkshire Cancer Research Centre in Harrogate is being funded for its first three years by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), an international philanthropic organisation that aims to create transformative change through the dedication of grants to partners across the world. The Active Together programme is supported through SNF’s Global Health Initiative, which aims to improve access to quality health care for all.