CANCER patients will be prescribed gym classes within 48 hours of diagnosis under radical NHS plans to boost survival.
Health service boss Simon Stevens says getting sick Brits “match fit” can improve their outcomes.
But campaigners warn sending shell-shocked patients for workouts may prove unpopular.
Early NHS trials show “exercise prescriptions” before therapy help tumour patients.
Keeping active throughout treatment was found to improve levels of fatigue, anxiety, depression and quality of life.
Cancer experts claim getting fighting fit, known as “prehab”, can help patients live longer. The NHS is planning a New Year rollout involving more than 4,000 recently diagnosed patients.
Patients will get diet advice, free gym membership, and be told to have at least nine high-intensity workouts before surgery.
The UK has some of the worst cancer survival rates in western Europe.
About 330,000 Brits are diagnosed with cancer each year, with 160,000 deaths.
Mr Stevens said the aim of the new policy is to help patients take “control of their health”.
He added: “There’s increasing evidence it’s worth trying to get match fit ahead of chemo or surgery.”
June Davis, of charity Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “While it might seem extraordinary, we know prehabilitation can support people to prepare physically and mentally for treatment.”
Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, added: “Of course staying fit is beneficial, but we should be encouraging those who are well to go to the gym.”