Readers Digest
Magazine subscription Podcast
HomeHealthHealth Conditions

How to improve your fitness after cancer treatment


1st Jan 2015 Health Conditions

How to improve your fitness after cancer treatment

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, setting fitness goals is probably the last thing on your mind. But exercise can have a very positive impact on your health, mentally and physically, and may help you during this difficult time. 

The benefits of exercise for cancer patients

In the past, doctors advised cancer patients to rest after treatment, but these days more clinicians and oncologists recommend exercise as a strategy for reducing the side-effects of treatment, speeding recovery and improving overall quality of life. 

In a report published by McMillan Cancer Support, physical activity after treatment for cancer can reduce the impact of some debilitating side-effects, such as swelling around the arm, anxiety, depression, fatigue, impaired mobility and weight changes.

Cancer survivors who exercise can also reduce their risk of developing heart disease and osteoporosis, which can occur after cancer treatment.


Tips for exercising with cancer

Keep in touch with your medical team at all time

1. Find an activity you enjoy

A salsa class or a walk in the park works wonders. You don’t have to follow a regime set at the gym.

2. Do resistance work

Easy exercises like bicep curls, squats and lunges, will help you through treatment and have a positive impact on cancer.

3. Set two goals

The first is to be physically active (i.e. low intensity, like easy walking, or even housework) for 150 minutes per week. The second goal is to build this up to a moderate intensity. This usually equates to 60–70 per cent of maximum heart rate.

4. Be flexible

Cancer can be a rollercoaster ride. Your goal is maintaining and improving health.

5. Make it a habit

The most important thing is frequency and consistency – which will help make exercise a habit. Doing something for five minutes three times a week is better than nothing.

6. Avoid swimming

After radiotherapy swimming can cause skin irritation.

7. Train at a low intensity

Avoid high intensity interval training during treatment as this can depress the immune system, which may already be weakened if you’ve had chemo, due to reduction of cells in your blood. Recommended activities include yoga, pilates, swimming, and walking.

8. Exercise to relieve stress

A punch bag or boxing gloves and pads are perfect but just don’t overdo it!

9. Listen to your body

Focus on the benefits of the exercise and don’t negatively focus on the damage you might do.

But don’t forget – before you embark on any new exercise or fitness regime, check with your doctor to ensure it is appropriate for you.



Loading up next...
Stories by email|Subscription
Readers Digest

Launched in 1922, Reader's Digest has built 100 years of trust with a loyal audience and has become the largest circulating magazine in the world

Readers Digest
Reader’s Digest is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (which regulates the UK’s magazine and newspaper industry). We abide by the Editors’ Code of Practice and are committed to upholding the highest standards of journalism. If you think that we have not met those standards, please contact 0203 289 0940. If we are unable to resolve your complaint, or if you would like more information about IPSO or the Editors’ Code, contact IPSO on 0300 123 2220 or visit