The “prehab” programme will include a regime of three fitness sessions a week, including a mix of high intensity cardio workouts and strength-based training.
The NHS hopes getting cancer patients in better shape before starting chemotherapy will “prime” them for the recovery period.
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said: “Cancer treatments now work better than ever, but they can really take a toll on your body.
“So there’s an increasing evidence that it’s really worth trying to get match fit ahead of chemo or major surgery. In effect you are ‘priming’ your own recovery before your treatment even begins.”
In addition to the exercise regime, patients will have access to nutritional advice and mental health support to help reduce the side effects of treatment and the amount of time spent in hospital.
The exercise programme is already in place in the Greater Manchester area, where more than 500 people are participants.
More than 2,000 people are expected to take part over the next two years, as similar services are also being run in Yorkshire, Leicester, and London.
Patient David Fowles, 68, entered the fitness programme this year and said the idea of going to the gym before surgery was laughable before he received the option.
But once his surgeon explained being fit before surgery would mean less time spent in hospital, he said yes.
“If someone had told me in February… that I would be going to the gym, I’d have laughed at them,” he said.
“The surgery was quite daunting and took 10.5 hours. I was told I’d be in hospital for two, three or four weeks. Well, I was out within nine days. I couldn’t believe it. All this down to the fitness regime – it’s been marvellous.
“I’ve just had a new grandson arrive in February, he’s also inspired me and I want to get better to see him – that’s encouraged me to get moving.”
June Davis, adviser for Allied Health Professionals at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Waiting to start cancer treatment can be a hugely anxious and uncertain time.
“While this might seem extraordinary that newly diagnosed patients are being referred to exercise classes and personal trainers, we know that prehabilitation can support people during this difficult time to prepare both physically and mentally for treatment, reclaim a sense of control and improve their health in the long term.”