Exercise & cancer

Exercising might, sometimes, be the last thing you want to think about whilst going through or even after cancer, but mo

re and mores studies show how important it is to keep moving during and after cancer treatment. Today I'm sharing some suggested guidelines on exercise, what to watch out for and the benefits of exercising during/after cancer.

The most important thing first: always, always, listen to your body. You want to challenge yourself yes, but also be mindful that is is important to not overdo your training, your body might have changed in several ways from treatment or simply not having trained a lot for a longer time.


There are many benefits to exercising during/after cancer though. The general health benefits from living an active life are endless and well known, but having (had) cancer there are more specific benefits. Research has shown that regular training:

  • Speeds up recovery

  • Helps prevent recurrence

  • Improves quality of life in social, mental and physical health

  • Improves blood circulation

  • Increase endorphins which fight depression and anxiety

  • Your oxygen consumption gets higher

  • And it fights fatigue, giving you more energy

But as great as these benefits are, it is important to always talk to your doctors first, before taking on any exercise. Even if you feel good, it is best to always check with them if the type of exercise you want to do is safe for you. Every individual is different, just as there are many different types of cancer and treatments. It is very important to get specific with your doctor on what type of exercise is good for you, as different forms of movement will have a different effect on your body.

For a long time it was advised to rest as much as possible and not to exercise, but research now proves the opposite to be true. There is consistent evidence confirming that exercise can be safely performed during and after cancer treatment, provided that individual limitations and specific side effects associated with cancer therapies are considered and monitored.

Be careful with:

  • Breast cancer: women with breast cancer can do upper body training, but it should be done very slowly.

  • Cancer affecting your bones: if you have cancer affecting your bones, you might be more at risk of a break or fracture. You must avoid putting too much strain on the affected bones. You could try swimming or exercising in water, as the water supports your body weight so the skeleton isn't stressed. Exercise such as yoga generally appears safe for everyone.

  • Low immunity: people with low immunity due to treatment need to avoid exercising in public gyms. Ask your medical team when it is safe to start exercising in the gym with other people.

  • Peripheral neuropathy: some people have loss of sensation, or feelings of pins and needles, in their hands and feet due to cancer treatments. This is called peripheral neuropathy. If you have this it might be better to use a stationary bike than to do other types of weight bearing exercise.


Commonly it is suggested to follow these guidelines regarding exercise after cancer:

During treatments it totally depends on how you feel and what your doctors suggest for your individual case. After your treatments, it is suggested to follow the guidelines on exercise for the general population. Generally, doctors advise:

  • At least 30 minutes a day

  • 5 days a week

  • Moderate paced activity such as walking.

(This level of activity is also often helpful for people during treatment.)

A combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training have been proven to most efficient, try to get:

  • At least 150 minutes per week of low intensity exercise (walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, pilates etc.)

  • Do higher intensity training at least 2x per week, preferably resistance training using weights, resistance bands etc.

Coming soon!

To guide you whilst you pick up working out again, I will be sharing videos every Monday that you can do anywhere and at any time. They will be short and sweet (10-15 minutes long) and will target different levels, areas and styles of training each week, making sure there is something for everyone.

#MovingMonday is meant to inspire you and get you moving, so please comment below if you would like to keep up to date with any videos coming out or any requests for the most awesome mini-workouts!

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