Exercise and Cancer

Why is exercise important during cancer?

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!


Back to top

This may well be the last thing on your mind right now but as soon as you feel you can tackle some exercise, you’ll find it won’t just help you physically but also mentally. It’s about moving more and being less sedentary. In other words, any activity that gets your body moving speeds up you’re breathing and heartbeat. It’s not just about structured exercise sessions but also everyday activities.

What exercise can do for you:

  • Strengthen your muscles and bones, and improve circulation
  • Help maintain or achieve a healthy weight
  • Improve energy levels
  • Improve mobility and balance
  • Improve appearance and self-esteem
  • Help you cope with stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Possibly meet people and socialise

Reduce the risk of, or help to manage:

Most importantly, adults should try and aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most, if not all seven, days of the week. Guidelines recommend a weekly total of 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise, along with strength-training (resistance) activities twice a week. What is important is just breaking up long periods of sitting as often as you can. So maybe a walk around the garden or your block would also be good if that’s all you can manage. You might even find you develop new exercise habits that will improve your lifestyle long after your cancer is a distant memory.


Back to top
  • If you’re going out to exercise, let someone know when you’ll be back or take a phone with you in case you need to call them for help.
  • Start any new exercise programme slowly, increasing your activity gradually – you’re not looking to break any records right now.
  • Your muscles might feel a little sore at first, but this should go away in a few days – if not, inform your doctor.

Should you experience any of these symptoms while exercising, stop the activity immediately and call for urgent medical assistance:

  • Pain or pressure in your chest
  • Pain down your arms
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Irregular or unusual heartbeat
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue


Back to top

Studies have shown that apart from maintaining an optimal level of energy balance, the effect of exercise on your calorie intake and expenditure, is associated with primary prevention of cancer as well as survival after the diagnosis and helping to prevent the recurrence of primary cancer.

Before you start any exercise programme, don’t forget to talk to your doctor, particularly if you have bone cancer or any persistent treatment-related side effects, such as lymphoedema (swelling caused by a build-up of lymph fluid), shortness of breath, nerve damage, skin irritation, fatigue or pain.


Back to top
  • Can I exercise during this treatment?
  • Are there any types of exercise I shouldn’t do?
  • What precautions should you take if you have a port/PICC line and/or chemo pump?
  • If you’ve never really exercised, should you have a check-up first?
  • Can they recommend an exercise professional who has experience with cancer patients?

Make sure you check on the qualifications of any trainer you engage to help you and ensure that they understand your medical condition.


Back to top

By keeping a training logbook and recording your physical and other activities (work or socialising) you’ll be helping your medical team to come up with the best exercise programme for you. You could also download an App to record your exercise or simply wear a device to track your fitness activities.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

For more health information

Click on the body area you want to know more about. Select a related health topic from the menu

Select a body area
Mental Health
Infant Health
Restlessness and Teething in Babies
Restlessness and Teething in Babies
Although deemed as ‘normal’, teething may be accompanied by a fever, irritability, diarrhoea and poor sleep; amongst other things. Was this ....
There has been a steady increase in the number of flu cases reported recently. This is unusual because the flu season usually runs from March to ....
When is a runny tummy actually diarrhoea, and when to use an antidiarrhoeal? Was this helpful? Submit Cancel Thanks for your feedback! Was this ....
Sinuses are spaces in the bones of your cheeks, your forehead and your nose. Was this helpful? Submit Cancel Thanks for your feedback! Was this ....
Measles, Mumps and Rubella – MMR
Measles, Mumps and Rubella – MMR
Measles, Mumps and Rubella can be highly infectious diseases1 and can spread through droplets of saliva, inhaled or picked up from surfaces and ....