Cancer is developed when abnormal cell function occurs. Cancerous cells can develop within all parts of the body and can invade surrounding and distant sites by spreading through the blood vessels and lymphatic systems. If diagnosis and treatment are not administered in the early stages of the disease, cancer can be life-threatening.


Why it’s important to exercise


The potential benefits of exercise during and after treatment are significant and research has proved its effectiveness. Exercising during chemotherapy can help ease side effects, such as fatigue and nausea, and can help to boost the immune system of those undergoing cancer treatments. Chemotherapy side effects can sometimes make exercising tough, but it’s recommended to try to be as active as possible during treatment.

exercise for chemotherapy

Benefits of an appropriately prescribed exercise program for this population include improved:


  • Muscle mass, strength, power
  • Cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Physical function
  • Physical activity levels
  • Range of motion
  • Immune function
  • Chemotherapy completion rates
  • Reduced anxiety and depression

Things to remember:


  • Patients who regularly exercised before treatment may find they need to exercise at a lower intensity level.
  • Avoid impact exercises if they have bony metastases (bone is common site for metastases).
  • Patients receiving chemotherapy may experience fluctuating periods of sickness and fatigue during treatment cycles that require frequent modifications to exercise prescription, such as reducing intensity and/or duration of the exercise session.
  • Throughout treatment patients’ immune system is often compromised and if their white blood cell count is low (lower than 3,500 white blood cells per microliter of blood), avoid public gyms, yoga studios, and other public places until their white blood cell count is at a safe level.
exercise and cancer

Types of exercise recommended


Aerobic exercise is an excellent form of exercise to increase aerobic capacity and decrease the side-effects associated with anti-cancer therapy medications.

Prolonged rhythmic activities using large muscle groups. For example, walking, cycling or swimming.

Resistance exercise and functional tasks recommended. Weights, resistance machines, or weight-baring functional tasks (e.g. sit-to-stands).

Flexibility exercise: stretching or ROM exercises of all major muscle groups also addressing specific areas of joint of muscle restriction that may have resulted from treatment with steroids, radiation, or surgery. For example, 4 repetitions of 10 to 30 seconds per stretch for flexibility.