Exercise in Cancer: It’s Effects during Chemotherapy

Cancer, one of the most feared diseases, impacts millions of people worldwide. With advancements in medical science, there are now various treatments available to combat this malady. One such method is chemotherapy. While the goal of chemotherapy is to destroy cancer cells, the treatment can also lead to a range of side effects in the body. In recent years, there’s been growing interest in the role of exercise during chemotherapy, not only as a way to mitigate some of the side effects but also to potentially enhance the effectiveness of the treatment. Let’s delve into the effects of exercise in Cancer, and its effects during Chemotherapy.

Alleviation of Fatigue

  • One of the most commonly reported side effects of chemotherapy is fatigue. The persistent tiredness can be debilitating, making even the simplest daily tasks seem insurmountable. Studies have shown that regular, moderate exercise can help combat this fatigue. Engaging in activities such as walking, cycling, or gentle yoga can boost energy levels and increase the sense of overall well-being.

 Improvement in Mental Health

  • The psychological toll of cancer and its treatment can be just as challenging as the physical symptoms. Depression, anxiety, and cognitive changes are not uncommon. Exercise has been recognized as a natural antidepressant, helping to lift mood, reduce anxiety, and enhance cognitive function. The endorphins released during physical activity act as natural painkillers and mood elevators.

 Mitigation of Muscle Atrophy and Loss of Strength

  • Chemotherapy can lead to muscle atrophy and a decline in physical strength. Regular exercise can help preserve muscle mass, maintain strength, and improve physical function. Resistance training, in particular, can be beneficial in combating muscle loss.

Enhanced Immune Function

  • Cancer patients often experience a weakened immune system, either due to the disease itself or as a side effect of the treatment. Moderate exercise can bolster the immune response, increasing the body’s natural ability to fend off infections.

Improved Bone Health

  • Certain cancer treatments can lead to bone density loss, increasing the risk of fractures. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking or resistance training, can help maintain bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

 Weight Management

  • Weight gain or loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Exercise can help regulate body weight, ensuring that patients maintain a healthy weight range, which is vital for overall health and recovery.

Potentially Enhanced Treatment Efficacy

  • While more research is needed, some preliminary studies suggest that exercise might enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy. The improved circulation from physical activity could facilitate better drug delivery to tumor sites.

Reduced Risk of Recurrence

  • There is growing evidence that regular exercise can reduce the risk of certain cancers returning. Engaging in physical activity post-treatment can offer long-term health benefits and improve survival rates.


  • While the benefits of exercise during chemotherapy are numerous, it’s essential for patients to consult their healthcare team before starting any exercise regimen. The type, frequency, and intensity of activity should be tailored to individual needs and capabilities. For some, gentle walks might be sufficient, while others might benefit from more structured exercise programs.

Cancer and chemotherapy present a multitude of challenges to patients. Exercise, however, emerges as a beacon of hope amidst the arduous journey of cancer treatment. Offering physical, psychological, and possibly even therapeutic benefits, exercise stands as an indispensable ally in the fight against cancer.

Exercise Prescribed by the Doctor vs. Exercise Prescribed by Experts in Physical Activity

Exercise is increasingly recognized as a crucial component of overall health, especially in the management and prevention of chronic diseases. While doctors and experts in physical activity (such as physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, and personal trainers) can both prescribe exercise, the nature, intent, and specifics of their recommendations may differ. Let’s explore these distinctions.

Educational Background and Expertise

  • Doctors: Their primary focus is on diagnosing and treating diseases. While they have a foundational understanding of the benefits of exercise, they may not be trained in-depth in exercise prescription unless they specialize in sports medicine or a similar field.
  • Experts in Physical Activity: These professionals have specialized training in designing and tailoring exercise regimens. They understand the nuances of different exercises, progression, and how to adapt routines to suit individual needs and conditions.

 Primary Focus of Prescription

  • Doctors: Doctors may prescribe exercise as a preventive measure or as part of a treatment plan for specific conditions like hypertension, diabetes, or obesity. Their recommendations might be more general, such as “Engage in moderate aerobic activity for 150 minutes a week.”
  • Experts in Physical Activity: Their recommendations are typically more detailed and tailored. They’ll consider factors like the individual’s fitness level, goals, and any existing injuries or conditions. Their prescription might include specifics on exercise type, duration, frequency, intensity, and progression.

 Holistic Understanding of Exercise

  • Doctors: A doctor’s primary concern is how exercise impacts health and disease. They view exercise as a tool to improve health metrics, such as blood pressure, blood sugar, or weight.
  • Experts in Physical Activity: These professionals also consider aspects like biomechanics, muscular imbalances, and sport-specific training. They have a broader view of exercise beyond just health benefits, encompassing performance, injury prevention, and functional movement.

 Follow-Up and Progression

  • Doctors: They might monitor health metrics (e.g., blood pressure) to gauge the impact of exercise but may not provide detailed feedback on exercise form, technique, or progression unless it’s a specialist in a relevant field.
  • Experts in Physical Activity: Regular follow-ups, adjustments based on progress, and feedback on technique are integral parts of their services. They can modify an exercise regimen as a person’s fitness level changes.

 Integration with Other Treatments

  • Doctors: They have a comprehensive understanding of a patient’s health profile and can integrate exercise with other treatments, medications, or interventions. They can caution against certain exercises if they might interfere with a medical condition or treatment.
  • Experts in Physical Activity: While they can tailor exercise regimens expertly, they might not be aware of all medical intricacies unless informed. It’s vital for them to collaborate with medical professionals to ensure exercise prescriptions are safe and effective.

Both doctors and experts in physical activity have crucial roles to play in promoting health through exercise. While doctors provide a medical perspective, emphasizing disease management and prevention, experts in physical activity dive deep into the specifics of exercise programming, ensuring routines are effective, safe, and tailored to individual needs. Collaboration between these professionals can offer patients and clients a comprehensive and holistic approach to health and fitness.

An exercise plan for every type of cancer patient

Designing an exercise plan tailored to the needs of cancer patients is essential, given the varying physical and emotional challenges they face. However, it’s crucial to understand that cancer encompasses many different diseases with distinct characteristics and treatment protocols. Thus, a single exercise plan might not be appropriate for every cancer patient. That being said, we can provide general exercise guidelines for some common cancer types, always emphasizing the importance of individualization and consultation with healthcare professionals.

General Guidelines for All Cancer Patients:

  • Consultation: Before starting any exercise program, cancer patients should consult with their oncologist and, if possible, a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist experienced in cancer care.
  • Start Slowly: Especially for those who haven’t been active, it’s essential to start slowly and gradually increase activity.
  • Include Aerobic, Strength, Flexibility, and Balance Training: A well-rounded regimen covers all these areas.

 Breast Cancer:

  • Aerobic: Low-impact activities like walking, swimming, or cycling can help improve cardiovascular health and reduce fatigue.
  • Strength Training: Especially important for those who’ve had surgery, focusing on improving strength in the chest, shoulders, and back. Start with light weights and progress gradually.
  • Flexibility: Gentle stretching or yoga can help improve range of motion, especially post-surgery.

 Prostate Cancer:

  • Aerobic: Regular aerobic exercises like brisk walking, jogging, or swimming.
  • Strength Training: Emphasize on pelvic floor muscles, legs, and core.
  • Flexibility: Stretching or yoga to maintain flexibility and reduce muscle tightness.

 Lung Cancer:

  • Aerobic: Gentle aerobic exercises, like walking, to improve lung capacity and overall stamina.
  • Strength Training: Focus on upper body and respiratory muscles.
  • Breathing Exercises: These can help improve lung function and oxygenate the body better.

Colorectal Cancer:

  • Aerobic: Walking, cycling, or swimming to boost cardiovascular health.
  • Strength Training: Emphasis on core strength and overall body conditioning.
  • Flexibility: Gentle stretching or pilates can help maintain abdominal flexibility.

 Blood Cancers (Leukemia, Lymphoma, Myeloma):

  • Aerobic: Low-impact activities like walking or swimming, tailored to the patient’s energy levels.
  • Strength Training: Gentle resistance exercises, with attention to overall body strength.
  • Flexibility and Balance: Due to potential neuropathy from some treatments, gentle balance exercises can be beneficial.

Bone and Soft Tissue Cancers:

  • Aerobic: Depending on the tumor’s location, low-impact exercises like swimming might be preferred.
  • Strength Training: Focus on muscles around the affected area, but always under guidance to avoid overloading the tumor site.
  • Flexibility: Essential to maintain joint function and range of motion.

This guide provides a general overview, and the exercise plans must be individualized based on the patient’s current health status, treatment side effects, existing comorbidities, and personal preferences. It’s essential always to monitor for any unusual symptoms and adjust the exercise regimen accordingly. Regular physical activity, when done correctly, can provide numerous benefits for cancer patients, from reducing treatment side effects to improving overall quality of life.

Woman with breast cancer who wants to start practicing yoga

Yoga is a wonderful practice that offers physical, mental, and emotional benefits. For women with breast cancer, it can serve as an effective tool to manage treatment side effects, enhance well-being, and cultivate a sense of inner peace. However, like any exercise, it’s essential to approach yoga mindfully, especially during or after treatment. Here are some guidelines and considerations for a woman with breast cancer looking to start practicing yoga:

 Consult with Healthcare Professionals

  • Medical Clearance: Before beginning yoga, it’s crucial to get a nod from her oncologist or treating physician. Some treatments or surgeries may require a waiting period before participating in certain physical activities.

Start Slowly

  • Especially if she’s new to yoga or hasn’t practiced in a while, it’s essential to start with beginner classes and poses. As she builds strength and flexibility, she can explore more challenging postures.

Choose the Right Yoga Style

  • Gentle Yoga: This is often recommended for cancer patients. Classes labeled as “restorative,” “gentle,” or “therapeutic” yoga are usually slower-paced and focus on relaxation and flexibility.
  • Avoid Hot Yoga: Intense forms like Bikram or hot yoga can be too strenuous and might not be suitable due to the heated environment, which can be dehydrating or increase the risk of lymphedema.

 Be Mindful of Surgery and Treatment Side Effects

  • If she has undergone surgery, such as a mastectomy or lumpectomy, she may have limited arm mobility or experience discomfort in certain poses. In such cases, poses can be modified.
  • For women with lymphedema or at risk for lymphedema, it’s crucial to monitor for swelling and be cautious with poses that strain the affected arm or side.

Listen to Her Body

  • Encourage her to be attentive to her body’s signals. If a pose feels uncomfortable or causes pain, she should come out of it.
  • Use props like blocks, straps, and bolsters to make postures more accessible and comfortable.

 Seek Specialized Classes or Instructors

  • Some yoga studios or community centers offer classes specifically designed for cancer patients or survivors.
  • Ensure the instructor knows about her diagnosis and any limitations or concerns she has. A well-informed instructor can provide modifications and ensure she practices safely.

 Incorporate Meditation and Breathing

  • Beyond the physical postures, yoga offers meditation and pranayama (breath control) techniques that can be particularly beneficial.
  • Practices like deep breathing, guided meditation, or progressive relaxation can alleviate anxiety, improve sleep, and foster a sense of inner calm.

Regular Practice

  • Consistency is essential. Even if it’s just a few minutes of gentle stretching or meditation, a daily practice can compound the benefits of yoga.

Yoga can be a supportive ally in a woman’s breast cancer journey. With its holistic approach, it not only addresses the physical challenges but also offers tools to cope with the emotional and psychological stresses of the diagnosis and treatment. However, it’s always vital to approach the practice with caution, prioritize safety, and ensure it complements her medical care.

What is the best exercise for cancer patients?

The concept of a “best” exercise for cancer patients is subjective and depends on various factors, including the type of cancer, the stage of the disease, the specific treatments received, the individual’s overall health, fitness level, and personal preferences. However, there is a consensus among experts regarding the benefits of certain types of exercises for cancer patients. Here’s an overview:

Aerobic Exercise


  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Helps manage body weight
  • Reduces fatigue, which is a common side effect of cancer treatments
  • Enhances mood and overall well-being


  • Walking: One of the most accessible and low-impact aerobic exercises.
  • Cycling: Either on a stationary bike or outdoors, cycling can be tailored to the individual’s fitness level.
  • Swimming: Provides a full-body workout and is gentle on the joints.

Strength Training


  • Helps maintain or rebuild muscle mass that might be lost due to treatment or inactivity
  • Supports bone health, especially important for those receiving treatments that may reduce bone density
  • Enhances metabolic rate and helps in weight management


  • Resistance band exercises: These are versatile and can be adjusted to various strength levels.
  • Weight lifting: Using free weights or machines, but it’s essential to start with light weights and gradually increase as strength improves.
  • Bodyweight exercises: Like squats, lunges, and push-ups.

 Flexibility and Balance Training


  • Maintains or improves range of motion
  • Reduces stiffness and pain, which can be side effects of some treatments
  • Improves posture and reduces the risk of falls


  • Stretching routines: Gentle daily stretching can maintain flexibility.
  • Yoga: Combines flexibility, strength, and balance exercises, and offers relaxation benefits.
  • Tai Chi: A gentle martial art that emphasizes balance, coordination, and meditation.

 Mind-Body Practices


  • Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Improves quality of sleep
  • Enhances overall sense of well-being and mindfulness


  • Meditation: Can range from guided meditations to mindfulness practices.
  • Breathing exercises: Helps in relaxation and can improve lung function.
  • Qi Gong: A traditional Chinese practice combining movement, breathing, and meditation.

It’s essential to understand that the “best” exercise is often the one that the individual enjoys and can sustain over the long term. Regular physical activity, tailored to the individual’s capabilities and preferences, can provide numerous benefits for cancer patients, from reducing treatment side effects to improving overall quality of life. As always, any exercise regimen should be discussed and coordinated with healthcare professionals to ensure safety and appropriateness for the individual’s circumstances.

Does exercise reduce cancer spread?

The relationship between exercise and cancer progression, particularly in terms of cancer spread (or metastasis), is an area of active research. While direct evidence on exercise preventing cancer spread in humans is limited, several studies and reviews have shown the potential benefits of exercise for cancer patients, and some mechanistic pathways have been proposed to explain the possible protective effects of exercise against cancer progression. Here are the key findings:

Direct Effects on Tumor Biology:

  • Reduced Inflammation: Exercise can lower systemic inflammation, which has been linked to cancer progression and metastasis.
  • Changes in Blood Flow: Exercise increases blood flow to tumors, which could potentially improve the efficacy of chemotherapy and radiation by enhancing the delivery of therapeutic agents.
  • Hormonal Effects: Exercise can modulate levels of certain hormones such as insulin and estrogen, which have been implicated in the growth and spread of specific cancers.
  • Immune System Modulation: Regular exercise can enhance the body’s immune response, which could potentially help in recognizing and attacking cancer cells.

 Indirect Effects:

  • Body Weight Management: Obesity is a known risk factor for several types of cancer and has been associated with poorer prognosis and increased risk of metastasis. Exercise, combined with a balanced diet, can help maintain a healthy weight.
  • Improved Mental Health: Regular physical activity can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, which in turn might have indirect effects on overall health and well-being.

 Clinical Studies and Meta-Analyses:

  • Numerous observational studies suggest that physically active individuals have a lower risk of developing certain cancers, and those who exercise after a cancer diagnosis often have better outcomes compared to sedentary patients.
  • A 2019 meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that exercise before and after cancer diagnosis was associated with reduced mortality in breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer patients. While this does not directly speak to the issue of metastasis, reduced mortality often indicates a combination of factors including possibly reduced cancer spread or recurrence.


  • While the potential benefits of exercise for cancer patients are promising, it’s essential to approach any exercise regimen with caution. Not all types of exercise are suitable for every patient, especially depending on the stage of the disease, treatments received, and overall health.
  • Further, while exercise may offer protective effects and improve outcomes for some cancer patients, it’s not a standalone treatment. It should be seen as a complementary approach to standard medical treatments.

While exercise has demonstrated potential in reducing the risk of developing certain cancers and improving outcomes in diagnosed patients, the direct link between exercise and reduced cancer spread remains an area of ongoing research. Nevertheless, the overall health benefits of regular, moderate exercise make it a valuable component of comprehensive cancer care. Patients should always consult with their oncologists or healthcare providers before starting or modifying an exercise routine.

Does exercise improve cancer?

“Improve cancer” is a broad phrase, but if you’re asking whether exercise can have a positive impact on the prognosis, quality of life, and overall health of cancer patients, then the answer is yes. While exercise isn’t a cure for cancer, several studies have shown that physical activity can offer multiple benefits for individuals diagnosed with cancer, both during and after treatment. Here’s an overview of how exercise can help:

 Improvement in Physical Functioning

  • Combat Treatment-Related Side Effects: Cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries can lead to fatigue, reduced muscle strength, and limited range of motion. Regular exercise can help counteract these effects by improving stamina, strength, and flexibility.

 Enhanced Quality of Life

  • Mental Health Boost: Exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and improve overall mood. These psychological benefits are crucial, given the emotional toll cancer can take.
  • Improved Sleep: Many cancer patients report sleep disturbances. Regular physical activity can help improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia.

 Reduced Risk of Treatment-Related Complications

  • Lymphedema Management: For breast cancer patients, especially those who’ve had lymph nodes removed, exercise (under guidance) can help manage and reduce the risk of lymphedema.
  • Bone Health: Certain cancer treatments can lead to reduced bone density. Weight-bearing exercises can help maintain or even improve bone health.

 Potential Reduction in Cancer Recurrence and Mortality

  • Positive Prognostic Impact: Some studies suggest that regular exercise after a cancer diagnosis can lead to a reduced risk of cancer recurrence, especially for cancers like breast and colorectal cancer. Furthermore, physically active cancer survivors might have a lower risk of cancer-related death.

Weight Management

  • Combat Weight Changes: Weight gain or weight loss can be side effects of cancer treatments. Exercise, combined with proper nutrition, can help manage these changes, reducing the risk of obesity-related complications or excessive weight loss.

 Improved Immune Function

  • Enhanced Immune Response: Regular physical activity has been shown to modulate the immune system, potentially aiding in the body’s ability to detect and eliminate malignant cells.

Important Considerations

  • Personalized Approach: The type, intensity, and frequency of exercise should be tailored to the individual’s health status, type and stage of cancer, treatments received, and overall fitness level.
  • Medical Supervision: Always consult with healthcare professionals before starting an exercise regimen. In many cases, working with a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist who has experience with cancer patients can be beneficial.
  • Start Slowly: Especially for those who haven’t been active, it’s crucial to begin with low-intensity exercises and gradually increase the intensity and duration.

Exercise can play a significant role in improving the overall well-being of cancer patients and survivors. While it’s not a substitute for medical treatments, it complements them by addressing both physical and psychological challenges that arise during the cancer journey.

What is an easy exercise for cancer patients?

Exercise for cancer patients should be tailored to the individual’s current health status, treatment phase, and overall fitness level. It’s important to note that what is considered “easy” can vary from one person to another. However, here are some generally gentle and easy exercises that many cancer patients find beneficial:


  • Benefits: Enhances cardiovascular health, improves mood, and can be easily adjusted in terms of pace and distance.
  • Considerations: Start with short distances and gradually increase. Choose flat, even surfaces to reduce the risk of falls.

 Chair Exercises

  • Benefits: Strengthens muscles, improves flexibility, and can be done in the comfort of one’s home.
  • Examples: Seated leg lifts, seated marches, arm raises, and ankle circles.

 Gentle Stretching

  • Benefits: Increases flexibility, reduces muscle stiffness, and improves range of motion.
  • Examples: Neck stretches, shoulder rolls, calf stretches, and hamstring stretches.

Tai Chi

  • Benefits: Improves balance, enhances flexibility, and has a meditative quality that can help with stress reduction.
  • Considerations: Seek beginner classes and ensure instructors are aware of any physical limitations.


  • Benefits: Increases flexibility, strength, and mental well-being. Specific postures can also improve breathing and relaxation.
  • Considerations: Opt for gentle or restorative yoga classes. Inform the instructor about the cancer diagnosis and any physical restrictions.

 Breathing Exercises

  • Benefits: Enhances lung capacity, reduces anxiety, and aids relaxation.
  • Examples: Deep diaphragmatic breathing, paced breathing, and box breathing.

Aqua Exercises

  • Benefits: Water provides resistance for muscle strengthening while being gentle on the joints.
  • Considerations: Ensure the water is at a comfortable temperature, and consider classes specifically designed for those with medical conditions.

Resistance Band Workouts

  • Benefits: Strengthens muscles without the need for heavy weights.
  • Examples: Bicep curls, leg presses, and shoulder presses with light resistance bands.

Balance Exercises

  • Benefits: Reduces the risk of falls, especially important if the patient experiences balance issues due to treatments.
  • Examples: Standing on one foot (with support if needed), heel-to-toe walking, and side leg raises.

Safety Considerations

  • Consultation: Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen. They can provide guidance on what exercises are safe and beneficial.
  • Listen to the Body: It’s essential to pay attention to how the body responds. If an exercise causes pain or extreme discomfort, it’s best to stop and consult with a medical professional or physical therapist.
  • Hydration: Ensure proper hydration before, during, and after exercise, especially if dealing with treatment side effects like vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Consistency: It’s better to engage in moderate exercise regularly rather than pushing too hard in a single session.

Easy exercises for cancer patients focus on gentle movements that help maintain or improve physical function without adding undue stress or strain. As always, personalization and safety are of utmost importance.

Benefits of Exercise in cancer

Exercise has become an increasingly recognized component of comprehensive cancer care due to its myriad benefits for patients. Both during and after treatment, engaging in regular physical activity can enhance a patient’s physical, psychological, and even potentially their oncological outcomes. Here are the notable benefits of exercise for individuals with cancer:

 Improved Physical Functioning

  • Counteract Treatment-Related Side Effects: Cancer treatments can lead to fatigue, muscle atrophy, and reduced aerobic capacity. Exercise helps in maintaining or regaining strength, endurance, and overall physical function.
  • Improved Cardiovascular Health: Aerobic exercises enhance cardiovascular function, which can be compromised in some cancer treatments.

 Enhanced Quality of Life

  • Mood Elevation: Exercise releases endorphins, which can elevate mood and combat feelings of depression and anxiety often associated with a cancer diagnosis and its treatment.
  • Reduced Fatigue: Exercise has been shown to be one of the most effective interventions for cancer-related fatigue.

 Reduced Risk of Treatment-Related Complications

  • Bone Health: Some cancer treatments can lead to decreased bone density. Weight-bearing exercises can mitigate this effect.
  • Lymphedema Management: For those at risk of lymphedema, especially breast cancer patients, certain exercises can help in managing and potentially reducing its incidence.

 Potential Positive Oncological Outcomes

  • Decreased Recurrence Risk: Some research suggests that exercise can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence, particularly for breast and colorectal cancers.
  • Reduced Mortality: There’s evidence indicating that patients who engage in regular physical activity after a cancer diagnosis have a lower risk of dying from the disease.

Improved Metabolic and Hormonal Profiles

  • Exercise can modulate levels of various hormones and growth factors implicated in cancer progression, like insulin and insulin-like growth factors.

 Weight Management

  • Weight gain or loss can be side effects of cancer or its treatment. Exercise helps in managing weight, which is important, given that obesity is linked to several types of cancers and poorer outcomes in those with a diagnosis.

Enhanced Immune Function

  • Regular physical activity can help regulate and boost the immune system, potentially aiding in the body’s defense against cancer cells.

Improved Mental Functioning

  • There’s evidence suggesting that exercise can counteract cognitive decline associated with certain cancer treatments, commonly referred to as “chemo brain.”

 Social Interaction

Group exercise classes, like yoga or tai chi sessions for cancer patients, offer a chance for social interaction, providing emotional support and a sense of community.

 Stress Reduction

  • Exercise can reduce levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as cortisol, and promote relaxation, helping patients cope with the psychological stress of their diagnosis and treatment.

Exercise, when tailored to the individual’s needs and capabilities, presents an array of benefits for cancer patients. These benefits touch on physical, emotional, and potentially even disease-related aspects of a patient’s health. It’s essential, however, that any exercise regimen be coordinated with healthcare professionals to ensure its appropriateness and safety.

Tips for Exercise in Cancer

Incorporating exercise into a cancer patient’s routine can be immensely beneficial, but it’s essential to approach it in a safe and effective manner. Here are some tips for cancer patients looking to integrate exercise into their care regimen:

 Consult Your Healthcare Team First

  • Before starting any exercise program, it’s crucial to consult with your oncologist or primary care provider. They can offer guidance on safe and beneficial activities tailored to your specific diagnosis, stage, and treatment plan.

 Start Slow and Gradual

  • If you haven’t been active for a while or are dealing with fatigue from treatments, begin with low-intensity exercises and gradually increase the duration and intensity as your strength and stamina improve.

 Listen to Your Body

  • Some days will be better than others. If you feel overly fatigued or experience pain, it’s okay to rest or modify the exercise. Your body’s signals are essential cues for gauging what’s appropriate for you.

 Stay Hydrated

  • Cancer treatments can cause dehydration, and exercise increases fluid needs. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workouts.

 Warm Up and Cool Down

  • Start each exercise session with a 5-10 minute warm-up (like walking or gentle stretches) to prepare your body. Similarly, end with a 5-10 minute cool-down to help your body transition back to a resting state.

 Incorporate Variety

  • Try to include a mix of aerobic exercises (like walking or cycling), strength training (using light weights or resistance bands), flexibility exercises (like yoga or stretching), and balance exercises to ensure comprehensive fitness.

Consider Professional Guidance

  • Working with a physical therapist, exercise physiologist, or a certified personal trainer who has experience with cancer patients can be beneficial. They can tailor exercises to your needs and ensure that you’re performing them correctly.

 Create a Schedule

  • Having a regular routine can help with consistency. However, remain flexible and be prepared to adjust based on how you feel.

Prioritize Safety

  • If you’re at risk for lymphedema or have bone metastasis, certain exercises might be contraindicated. Ensure you know any exercise restrictions specific to your situation.

 Join a Supportive Group

  • Participating in group classes designed for cancer patients or joining a cancer wellness program can provide social support and motivation.

 Incorporate Mind-Body Exercises

  • Techniques like yoga, tai chi, and Qigong not only offer physical benefits but also help in stress reduction and mental relaxation.

 Stay Consistent but Flexible

  • While consistency is beneficial, it’s also essential to be flexible. Your energy levels and physical capabilities might fluctuate based on treatments and recovery. Adjust your routine as needed.

Set Realistic Goals

  • Whether it’s walking for a specific time, reaching a certain number of steps, or achieving a flexibility milestone, having realistic goals can provide motivation.

 Celebrate Achievements

  • Celebrate your progress, no matter how small. Every step forward is an accomplishment.

Introducing exercise during or after cancer treatment can be a positive and transformative experience. It’s vital to approach it with care, mindfulness, and a recognition of your unique needs and capabilities. Regular physical activity, tailored to your situation, can significantly enhance the quality of life and overall well-being during your cancer journey.

 Tricks for Exercise in Cancer

The term “tricks” often implies shortcuts or easy ways to achieve a particular goal. When it comes to exercise for cancer patients, it’s important to prioritize safety and effectiveness over quick results. However, there are several strategies or “tricks” that can help cancer patients incorporate exercise more efficiently into their routine, while also making the experience more enjoyable and sustainable:

 Find an Exercise Buddy

  • Exercising with a friend or family member can provide motivation, accountability, and companionship. It can also make the experience more enjoyable.

 Utilize Technology

  • Fitness apps and wearables can help track progress, set goals, and offer guided workouts tailored to your fitness level.

 Incorporate Exercise into Daily Activities

  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away from store entrances, or doing light exercises during TV commercial breaks can add up over time.

 Focus on Activities You Enjoy

  • Whether it’s dancing, gardening, or swimming, choose exercises that you look forward to. This increases the likelihood of sticking with the routine.

 Set Small, Achievable Goals

  • Instead of aiming for an hour of exercise, start with 10-minute sessions and gradually increase as your stamina improves.

 Create a Playlist

  • Listening to your favorite music can be motivating and make the time pass more quickly.

 Use Visualization Techniques

  • Imagine the positive effects of exercise on your body, such as increased blood flow, strengthening muscles, and flushing out toxins.

 Create a Dedicated Space

  • Having a specific area in your home for exercise, even if it’s just a corner with a yoga mat and resistance bands, can make it easier to get started.

Schedule It

  • Treat exercise like an essential appointment. Set reminders or alarms to help establish consistency.

Stay Educated

  • The more you understand about the benefits of exercise for your specific type of cancer and treatment phase, the more motivated you might be to continue.

 Join Classes Tailored to Cancer Patients

  • Many facilities offer classes specifically designed for cancer patients, which consider their unique needs and challenges.

 Document Your Journey

  • Keeping a journal or taking photos can help track progress, providing motivation and a sense of accomplishment.

Seek Inspiration

  • Connect with other cancer patients or survivors who have incorporated exercise into their routines. Their stories can provide motivation and practical insights.

 Mix It Up

  • Change your routine now and then to prevent boredom and challenge different muscle groups.

 Reward Yourself

  • Set milestones and reward yourself when you achieve them, whether it’s with a treat, new workout gear, or a relaxing activity.

Incorporating exercise into a cancer patient’s routine requires a blend of motivation, creativity, and perseverance. The above “tricks” or strategies aim to make this process smoother, more enjoyable, and sustainable in the long run. Always remember that each individual’s journey is unique; what works for one might not work for another. The key is to find what’s most effective and enjoyable for you.

Example of Exercise in Cancer

An exercise routine for a cancer patient should be individualized based on the type of cancer, stage of treatment, current physical condition, and specific challenges or limitations. Here’s an example of a weekly exercise routine for a breast cancer patient who has completed active treatment and is transitioning back to regular activities:

Note: Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen.

Monday: Cardiovascular and Aerobic Exercise

  • Morning Walk: 20 minutes at a comfortable pace.
  • Breathing Exercises: Deep diaphragmatic breathing for 5 minutes to enhance lung function.
  • Tuesday: Strength Training
  • Arm Exercises: Using resistance bands for bicep curls and tricep extensions. 2 sets of 10 repetitions each.
  • Leg Exercises: Seated leg lifts and gentle squats holding onto a sturdy chair. 2 sets of 10 repetitions each.
  • Wednesday: Flexibility and Balance
  • Gentle Yoga: A 30-minute session focusing on poses such as Cat-Cow, Child’s Pose, and Tadasana (Mountain Pose) for flexibility. Tree Pose and Warrior I can be incorporated for balance.
  • Thursday: Cardiovascular and Aerobic Exercise
  • Cycling: A 20-minute session on a stationary bike at a moderate pace.
  • Friday: Strength Training
  • Upper Body: Using light dumbbells for lateral raises and front raises. 2 sets of 10 repetitions each.
  • Lower Body: Lunges and step-ups onto a low stool. 2 sets of 10 repetitions each.

Saturday: Mind-Body Exercise

  • Tai Chi: A beginner’s 30-minute session focusing on flowing movements and breath.

Sunday: Rest and Recovery

  • Stretching: Gentle stretches focusing on areas that might feel tight or sore from the week’s activities.
  • Relaxation: Mindfulness meditation or deep relaxation exercises to calm the mind and body.

Additional Considerations:

  • Hydration: Drink water before, during, and after exercises to stay hydrated.
  • Warm-up and Cool-down: Begin each exercise session with 5 minutes of warm-up, such as walking or gentle stretching, and end with 5 minutes of cool-down.
  • Pacing: Always start slow and gradually increase the intensity. If any exercise causes pain or discomfort, stop and consult a professional.
  • Consistency: While it’s important to stick to the routine, it’s also essential to listen to the body. If feeling fatigued, consider a lighter exercise or additional rest.

Remember, this is just one example and might not be suitable for all breast cancer patients or those with other types of cancer. The exercise routine should be adapted to the individual’s unique needs and circumstances.

Exercise in Cancer
Exercise in Cancer

Frequently Asked Questions about Exercise in Cancer

Here’s a compilation of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about exercise and cancer, along with their answers:

  1. Can I exercise during chemotherapy or radiation?

Answer: Yes, many patients can exercise during chemotherapy or radiation, but the type, duration, and intensity should be tailored based on individual tolerance and in consultation with the healthcare provider.

  1. Will exercise reduce my cancer-related fatigue?

Answer: Yes, numerous studies have shown that regular exercise can help reduce cancer-related fatigue, improving energy levels and overall well-being.

  1. Can exercise help prevent cancer recurrence?

Answer: Some research suggests that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of certain cancer types recurring, particularly for breast and colorectal cancers. However, more studies are needed to establish a direct link.

  1. What type of exercise is best for cancer patients?

Answer: The “best” exercise is individualized and depends on the patient’s diagnosis, treatment stage, physical condition, and personal preferences. A combination of aerobic, strength, flexibility, and balance exercises is generally recommended.

  1. How often should I exercise?

Answer: The general recommendation is for cancer survivors to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise weekly, alongside strength training exercises at least two days a week. However, individual plans may vary based on specific needs.

  1. Are there exercises I should avoid?

Answer: Depending on the type of cancer and treatment side effects, some exercises might be contraindicated. For instance, patients at risk of lymphedema might have specific exercise restrictions. Always consult with a healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise.

  1. How do I know if I’m over-exerting myself?

Answer: Listen to your body. Symptoms like dizziness, sharp pain, excessive breathlessness, or extreme fatigue indicate that you might be pushing yourself too hard. It’s essential to find a balance between staying active and allowing your body to recover.

  1. Can I exercise if I have bone metastasis?

Answer: Patients with bone metastasis need to be cautious, as they have an increased risk of fractures. Low-impact exercises, like walking or swimming, might be safer. Any exercise regimen should be discussed with the oncologist and, if possible, a physiotherapist.

  1. Should I join a gym or can I exercise at home?

Answer: Both options are valid. While a gym might offer specialized equipment and classes, many effective exercises can be done at home with minimal equipment. The key is consistency and ensuring that exercises are done safely.

  1. How can I stay motivated to exercise?

Answer: Setting realistic goals, tracking your progress, seeking support from loved ones or support groups, and choosing activities you enjoy can help maintain motivation. Remembering the benefits of exercise for your physical and mental health can also be a motivating factor.

It’s crucial for cancer patients and survivors to remember that while exercise offers many benefits, it should be approached with caution and in consultation with a healthcare provider. Everyone’s cancer journey is unique, and so will their exercise needs and experiences.


Exercise has emerged as a vital component in the holistic care of individuals diagnosed with cancer. From diagnosis to survivorship and beyond, integrating physical activity can play a pivotal role in enhancing the overall quality of life, alleviating side effects of treatments, and potentially improving prognosis.

The myriad benefits of exercise encompass both physical and mental domains. Physically, it has been linked with reduced fatigue, improved cardiovascular function, enhanced muscular strength, and better flexibility and balance. On the mental and emotional front, exercise offers an antidote to anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairments, fortifying the spirit of those battling the disease.

The evolving body of research increasingly suggests a potential role of exercise in reducing the risk of recurrence for some cancers, and even its influence in potentially increasing survival rates. Moreover, for some patients, physical activity can act as an empowering tool, granting a semblance of control in a journey often characterized by uncertainty and loss of autonomy.

However, it is paramount that exercise interventions for cancer patients are approached with prudence. Individualized plans, crafted in collaboration with healthcare providers, ensure that physical activity remains safe, effective, and aligned with the unique needs of every patient. Factors like the type of cancer, stage, ongoing treatments, and potential side effects must all be considered.

Physical Activity and the Person with Cancer. Incorporating exercise into the cancer care paradigm does not merely signify an addition of routine or regimen. It symbolizes a paradigm shift towards holistic care, where healing is pursued not just through medicines and procedures, but also through movement, sweat, and perseverance.

As our understanding of cancer evolves, so does our appreciation for interventions beyond traditional medical treatments. In this expanded toolkit for combating cancer, exercise shines bright as a potent ally, promoting healing, resilience, and hope.

Leave a Comment