5 Tips For Remaining Active During Cancer

Like many young adults, you may have been really active and involved in regular exercise/sport before you were diagnosed with cancer. If you stopped all activity after being diagnosed, we are here to tell you that, contrary to popular belief, cancer treatment doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stop all exercise completely. Of course there will be times when you’ll need to rest, because of the treatment or its side effects, but exercise can assist in maintaining strength and help you deal with the physical side effects of treatment.

There is consistent evidence to suggest that exercise is safe both during and after cancer treatment and can assist with and maintaining/increasing strength and endurance, mitigate treatment related side effects such as fatigue and improve self-esteem.

It is acknowledged however, that exercise can be difficult during treatment or with potential side effects causing a range of physical effects. This blog is aimed at providing some safety and practical tips when planning to exercise throughout your cancer treatment.

Tip 1: Be safe.

There are specific risks associated with cancer treatment and exercise that need to be considered. Therefore check with your medical team prior to starting a program to ensure that it is safe to do so.

You can also seek advice from qualified exercise specialists, such as: accredited exercise physiologist (AEP). An AEP can work alongside your treating team develop and adjust your exercise program as needed as you move through cancer journey.

Tip 2: Be consistent.

It is recommended that patients try and achieve 30 minutes of exercise/physical activity daily whilst undergoing treatment, and 150 minutes per week. To maximise the physical and psychosocial benefits a combination of aerobic and strength training (resistance) is recommend.

Even going for short walk (5-10mins) a couple of times per day can be a good way to keep active.

Another way to increase your activity levels is by looking for incidental exercise opportunities; for example take the stairs instead of the lifts/escalators, walk between appointments instead of being pushed in a wheelchair.

Tip 3: Be flexible.

There may be fluctuations in your ability to exercise throughout your treatment, and therefore it is important to listen to your body and adjust your exercise regime to accommodate changes.

For example, if you’re feeling fatigued, you may look to decrease the number of minutes that you undertake the exercise, the intensity or the type of exercise.

Tip 4: Be prepared

Adherence to exercise improves when you are well planned. Schedule exercise into your weekly plan just like you would your medical appointments and keep a diary of your exercise so that you can see how you are progressing.

Tip 5. Be yourself and have fun.

Exercise should not be a chore and you should undertake activities that you enjoy doing. Exercising with friends and family members is a great way to maintain social interactions.

Andrew Murnane (Exercise Physiologist)
Travis Hall (Exercise Physiologist)
ONTrac at Peter Mac Victorian Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Service
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

If you have any worries or concerns in relation to contents of this article please consult your medical team.