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Exercise Guidelines For Cancer Patients and Survivors  


“Several recent studies suggest that higher levels of physical activity are associated with a reduced risk of the cancer coming back, and a longer survival after a cancer diagnosis." Kerry Courneya, PhD, professor and Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Cancer at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

While the evidence demonstrating the beneficial effect of exercise to cancer patients and survivors is exciting, when you think about how different we all are and how many different types of cancer and treatments there are, it is difficult to write guidelines to cover everyone.

After Treatment

If you are over your treatment and wanting to get back to as normal a life as you can, there are very good reasons for exercising. Regular exercise can reduce stress and give you more energy. One research study found that women who had had breast cancer were less likely to be anxious or depressed if they exercised for half an hour four times each week. The sooner the women started their exercise after their cancer treatment had finished, the better they felt. With figures suggesting that up to 4 out of 10 women are depressed a year after their diagnosis, this could be just what the doctor ordered! Another study published in March 2007 reported that women who had had breast cancer treatment felt better, had better shoulder mobility, and could walk further in 12 minutes, after a 12 week group exercise program.

During Treatment

Other studies have looked at whether exercise could help lower fatigue during cancer treatment. In one study, researchers recruited 38 people having radiotherapy for either breast or prostate cancer. They asked half of them followed a program of moderate, home based exercise. After 4 weeks, the exercise group were doing more than the 10,000 steps recommended for healthy people. Another study introduced an exercise program for patients in hospital having intensive treatment. Those exercising were fitter at the end of the study and made fewer complaints about fatigue. So having cancer need not stop you exercising.

If you are in treatment (or have recently finished) it is fine to exercise if you feel like it. But don't overdo it. How much you do really depends on how fit you are generally. If you've never done much exercise, you'll have to build up your level of exercise gradually. If you do too much one day, you will probably pay for it the next day. Don't always think you have to do more than yesterday. Some days you will have more energy than others. Having said that, don't let past lack of exercise put you off starting exercise altogether. Gentle walking is fine for just about everyone. You can still build up day by day. Fatigue is finally being recognized as one of the most common side effects from cancer treatment. It is encouraging that taking regular exercise can help to combat it.

Types of Exercises

Weight bearing exercise (running, rowing - anything where your bones are doing some work) may also protect you against osteoporosis (thinning of the bones). Osteoporosis is a concern of many post menopausal women who have had hormone dependent cancers and so cannot take hormone replacement therapy.

Be Careful

There are some situations where you need to take extra care. If you have cancer affecting your bones, you may be more at risk of a break or fracture. You must not put too much strain on the affected bones. You could try swimming or exercising in water. The water supports your body weight so the skeleton is not stressed. 

Get Medical Clearance

Your best advice is to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your fitness for any particular sport or activity.

Cancer Exercise Specialist

Your Cancer Exercise Specialist has received comprehensive training on twenty-five types of cancers, their surgeries and treatments, breast reconstruction, upper and lower body lymphedema prevention, identification and management of cancer pain and fatigue, comprehensive fitness evaluation including postural assessment and goniometry.  We’re constantly training, updating, reading and emerging ourselves in the latest scientific research to ensure that we play our part in your transition from patient to survivor.


WebMD                                                                                                                            Cancer Research UK




American Cancer Society


Mesothelioma Center


























































For informational purposes only. A Cancer Exercise Specialist or the above Exercise Guidelines is NOT a substitute for licensed professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician before starting any new exercise program. DO NOT seek to delay or disregard your medical advice based on the information here presented. Weight-Loss and other results vary according to individuals and therefore CANNOT be guaranteed.