An ex-professional footballer believes his fitness was key to his speedy recovery from cancer - and is urging fellow sufferers to exercise while undergoing treatment.

Neil Sharp, 34, was diagnosed with Stage 4B Hodgkins Lynphoma in his spleen in April 2009 and spent 12 months out of the game to undergo chemotherapy and recover.

The former QPR and Swansea City centre back from Chipperfield left Eastleigh FC and put his career on hold while he underwent six rounds of the gruelling treatment, during this time he was told he would not be able to exercise.

It was during this experience that he became inspired to become a personal trainer after seeing first-hand the benefits of being physically active during treatment.

He said: "When they tell you that you have cancer it kind of just hits you.

"The chances of chemo working were quite good for me and the doctor always had a positive outlook but you still have to go through it.

"When I started chemo the doctor said to me ‘you’re not going to be able to play football’ I asked if I was going to be able to do anything, he told me I probably wouldn’t.

"He told me that I would not be able to do a lot and would need plenty of rest, I took that as complete rest but found I couldn’t just sit there.

"It wasn’t everyday I could do things but on the days I could I would go for a walk to stay active. It helped to combat the fatigue I was feeling.

"But the fact that I was healthy before I underwent chemo definitely helped my recovery, if I had been obese there would have been significantly more complications."

The popular defender’s difficulties began several years before the diagnosis with a dull ache which developed into excruciating pain across his back whenever he drank alcohol.

After six cycles for treatment Sharp underwent a pet scan which showed the cancer was completely gone although nodules on his lung, which initially caused doctors concern, were found to be a simple infection.

Sharp then began training again and set himself a goal of returning to action before the end of the season, something he achieved for Chesham in April 2010.

Macmillan Cancer Support claims four in five cancer patients who have completed treatment were not told about the importance of being physically active.

This is despite evidence which they say shows that being active during and after treatment can minimise the side effects of treatment, and could help prevent recurrence and dying from the disease for some cancers.

Carol Fenton, Macmillan general manager for London, Anglia and the South East, said: "This new research shows that the message is still not being passed on to cancer patients about just how important it is for them to keep active.

"We know that people going through gruelling cancer treatment tend to feel out of control and it can be a very frightening time. Knowing what you can do to help yourself and your recovery is both encouraging and helpful.

"It is crucial that health professionals encourage people living with cancer to stay physically active and Macmillan will continue to work with and support them to ensure that this happens."