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Exercise During Cancer Treatment


Updated March 06, 2009

Question: Exercise During Cancer Treatment
I recently started chemotherapy and was wondering if I can continue to exercise if I feel like it?
Answer: For many people with cancer, exercise is definitely possible and encouraged. There are many health benefits to engaging in exercise while undergoing treatment such as increasing energy levels and relieving stress. It can also help ease side effects like constipation and offset weight gain that is caused by some medications. While this may not be the time to train for your next marathon, it is certainly feasible for most to participate in a mild to moderate amount amount of safe exercise.

What type of exercise you do is important, however. If you are undergoing chemotherapy, avoid contact sports in order to avoid injuries. Remember, when you are taking chemotherapy drugs, your immune system is weakened so it may take your body longer to heal from mild injuries.

How much you exercise is also important, and there is no set recommended amount of time that you should exercise. Each person is unique and responds to exercise differently, so listen to your body. If you feel tired one day, it is perfectly acceptable to skip your daily walk. If you begin to feel fatigued during a work out, do not push yourself to finish.

Physical activities that are popular among people with cancer include:
  • walking
  • yoga
  • cycling
  • light to moderate aerobics
  • light to moderate strength training

In some areas, exercise groups have formed that cater exclusively to people with cancer. Check with your cancer treatment center or your local American Cancer Society chapter to see if one is available. Before beginning any type of exercise, get permission from your doctor. He can make personalized recommendations to help you organize your fitness plan.
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