SME of the Week: The Exercise Clinic

DigitalHealth.London Launchpad alumnus and our SME of the Week, The Exercise Clinic, works with NHS trusts to incorporate exercise into the cancer treatment pathway. They provide exercise training, support and education for people living with cancer, with particular focus in prostate cancer. Emily Curtis, Chief Executive and Co-founder, shares The Exercise Clinic’s story…

Chris and I met in 2013. He had been diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer which had returned after major surgery and his oncologist had referred him to an exercise clinic where I was working. Very soon after we first began working together I went skiing and ended up injuring my knee. I was incredibly naive about the impact this would have on my day-to-day life from everything to the sport I played, my work and my mental health. Despite working with Chris and others who had many barriers to exercise because of their health and treatment, I don’t think I had ever really appreciated what it was to be fit and active and have two properly working legs! The experience made me realise how valuable it was to have someone there to guide and motivate me to engage in my recovery programme. I was better able to see what it meant for the patients I worked with if they could return to their normal routine, a hobby, their independence or just simply being more energised for quality time with their family and friends.

I saw that specialist structured exercise delivered with kindness and encouragement could make a tremendous difference to quality of life for people living with cancer. Chris had become a huge advocate for how exercise and the one-to-one support had helped him. He was fascinated by the data surrounding his diagnosis and he started to notice the impact that structured exercise was having on the progression of his cancer. Together we thought that there was an opportunity to use our combined experience to make changes to the way that exercise was regarded, promoted and incorporated into the treatment pathway for cancer, in particular, prostate cancer.

Chris and I launched The Exercise Clinic in 2016 and since then we have been working with The Royal Marsden in Chelsea and Sutton, with Guy’s and University College London Hospitals (UCLH). Over the last 18 months, we have talked to over 3,000 patients and partners in hospital settings about the importance of structured exercise. Based on recent research undertaken by King’s College London, the impact of these talks may result in clinically significant benefits to quality of life and may influence physical activity intention in certain individuals.

The Exercise Clinic

With the support of DigitalHealth.London’s launchpad programme, we have developed an app to help track adherence to exercise and improve motivation. Funding has been allocated at a major cancer hospital to pilot the exercise intervention and tracking via our app in an NHS setting for men with prostate cancer who are undergoing hormone therapy. The start date of the pilot has been delayed due to COVID-19 but we are hopeful that it will start as soon as possible. In the meantime, we are continuing to see patients remotely for one-to-one exercise sessions.

We are convinced that the exercise behavioural change intervention can be implemented in the cancer treatment pathway to support patients both in hospital and at home. We are really interested in working with other hospital trusts and believe that it would be possible to roll out the intervention both nationally and internationally.