Exercise can help to manage and reduce many common side effects of cancer treatments. It can increase your energy, improve strength and fitness, enhance mood and optimize recovery.
It is safe for most people to exercise at any time after your diagnosis if you start slowly and increase your activity gradually. Inactivity and rest can lead to weakness, deconditioning and fatigue and should be avoided where possible.
Cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy will often cause side effects that can impact your daily activities, physical function, ability to work and overall quality of life.
- Regular exercise is important at every stage of your cancer treatment and recovery. It has been shown to:
- Improve energy levels and reduce cancer-related fatigue
- Maintain and improve fitness and strength
- Reduce deconditioning caused by treatments
- Increase flexibility and range of motion
- Assist with weight control
- Improve balance and lower your risk of falls
- Maintain independence and normal daily activities
- Increase strength of muscles and bones
- Improve your mental health and self-esteem
- Reduce the risk of other health conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers)
- Improve your quality of life
The exercise guidelines encourage you to start by moving more and sitting less. Take part in regular physical activity and return to normal activities as soon as possible after cancer diagnosis and treatments.
Gradually increase your exercise and aim to do some type of activity on most days of the week.
If you have not been regularly active, or are experiencing symptoms that limit your ability to be active, it is recommended that you start with 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise (e.g. walking, cycling, swimming), three times per week (for a total of 90 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise), plus 2 muscle strengthening exercise sessions per week. This has been shown to help reduce symptoms related to cancer and its treatment, such as fatigue, anxiety, and depression, and to improve sleep.
Once you are regularly active, it is recommended to build up to 150+ minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise (e.g. walking, cycling, swimming), and two muscle strengthening exercise sessions per week to improve and maintain general health and well-being.
Most people are safe to begin walking or some type of low intensity exercise (e.g. swimming or cycling). If you are new to exercise or have not been active recently it is recommended that you check with your health care provider or an exercise physiologist before becoming more active.
For individual exercise advice or exercise safety screening, you can speak to an oncology trained qualified exercise professional at HealthLink BC
for free by calling 8-1-1 from anywhere in BC. This service can help determine what amount and types of exercise are safe for you, can give you individual exercise recommendations and can support you in becoming more physically active and to stay motivated.