The Importance of Exercise During Cancer Treatment -

The Importance of Exercise During Cancer Treatment

As a result of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, many cancer patients and survivors experience physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that affect their quality of life. Physical activity has been identified as an intervention that may help to manage the side effects of a cancer diagnosis and its treatment.

The role exercise plays in cancer care is becoming increasingly important. Exercise is known to be safe and helpful for cancer survivors during and after treatment.

Recent research studies point to many specific benefits of exercise. Some show it significantly improves cancer-related fatigue and that it can help improve survival for some advanced cancers, including metastatic colorectal cancer. Research also shows the long-term benefits of increased exercise and a healthy lifestyle after cancer to reduce other diseases.

During cancer treatment regular exercise may help you with:

● Improve balance and coordination
● Lower the risk of heart disease
● Reduces the risk of osteoporosis (weak bones that are more likely to break)
● Improve blood circulation
● Make you less dependent on others for help with normal activities of daily living
● Lower the risk of being anxious and depressed
● Reduces fatigue (Tiredness)
● Help you control your weight
● Manage cancer related pain
● Manage lymphedema
● Improve your overall quality of life

Common side effects of cancer and it’s treatment and ways to manage


Fatigue is the most commonly experienced condition in cancer patients. It’s a feeling of tiredness, exhaustion, drowsiness or just a lack of energy to do daily activities. It affects both your physical and mental health and hence decreasing quality of life. Fatigue can be a result of the illness itself or reduced physical activity. Physical activity plays an important role in treating fatigue.

Aerobic exercises like walking, swimming or light cycling can reduce fatigue and improve functional status and energy levels.


Most cancer patients experience body pain. Untreated pain causes suffering, interferes with sleep and inhibits you from engaging in any physical and social activities. In fact pain can be one of the most debilitating experiences one can endure.
strategies like soft tissue mobilisations, therapeutic massage, modalities, therapeutic stretching and strengthening exercises are used in treating pain.

Breathing Difficulty

Shortness of breath or Dyspnea is commonly seen in cancer patients. It increases with activity and hence patients avoid exercises. It often may lead to anxiety and depression which results in depreciating quality of life.

Breathing exercises like Diaphragmatic breathing or pursed lip breathing techniques, blowing a balloon or using a Spirometer.

Body Strengthening

Strength and resistance training, can firm, strengthen, and increase muscle mass, as well as improve bone density, balance, and coordination. Regular strength or resistance training also helps prevent the natural loss of lean muscle mass that comes with aging or an illness.

Physiotherapy with aerobic and resistance exercises can improve fitness and health of patients. Exercises play an important role in maintaining and building muscle mass.


Sometimes, cancer patients experience peripheral neuropathy and this predominantly due to the treatment side effects. Neuropathy is an abnormal nerve function experienced as pain, numbness, tingling and reduced functional capacity in the extremities, such as hands and feet or fingers and toes.Neuropathy leads to reduced sensation, impaired proprioception and muscle weakness in the affected areas which interferes with balance and gait, therefore increasing the risk of falling.

Walking, Pelvic bridging, Neck isometrics, Squeeze ball activities, Picking a pen/cloth with toes helps with Neuropathy.


Lymphedema is a build-up of fluid in soft tissues when the lymphatic system is damaged or blocked. It can occur after any cancer or the treatment such as removal of lymph nodes. It usually affects an arm or leg, but it can also affect other parts of the body. Lymphedema causes long-term physical, psychological, and social problems for patients.

The first line of treatment for lymphedema is complex physical therapy. It involves exercises, massage, manual lymphatic drainage and multilayer compression stockings.

Tags: Exercise benefits, regular exercise, cancer side effects, fatigue, lymphedema, cancer physical activites