Exercising during treatment

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Today’s guest post by Virginia  Cunningham is a good motivator for me and many of you out there dealing with the effects and aftereffects of treatment. It’s easy to say, “I’m too tired to exercise.” Or as it is here today, ” The weather is too crappy to go out.” Lucky for me I have a husband who motivates me to walk with him every evening no matter what! I also go to a yoga class at The Cancer Support Community. I know I can always do more, but when I do, I’m usually more energized and even my mood improves. I’ll turn it over here to Virginia, who’ll tell you why exercise is a must for us!

There’s no question that cancer treatment, whether it be surgery, chemotherapy or some other form of radiation, is tremendously hard on the human body. Patients will often feel far worse as a result of the treatment than from the cancer itself, usually experiencing fatigue and nausea more often than before.

However, there is a fair amount of research that suggests exercise might be not only safe, but a beneficial way to improve your health and the quality of life during and after your cancer treatment.

Energy Levels

One of the biggest hurdles that those undergoing cancer treatment face is a steep drop in energy and a rise in overall fatigue. This is usually a direct result of the treatment, and can often have little or nothing to do with the cancer itself, as many types of cancers are initially without significant symptoms.

Becoming idler doesn’t address this issue, and could possibly even cause you to become more fatigued, simply because you’re not getting out and being active. In general, an inactive person risks losing muscle mass, which, in turn, can slow down the rate of metabolism. As you lose muscle and gain fat, you’ll only end up decreasing your energy levels even further.

If you’re able, keeping up with a daily exercise routine will help you avoid this cycle by boosting your energy levels, and can even have positive effects in terms of actually helping to combat your cancer.

In the short term, staying active will help you maintain the energy you’ll need to get you through the day, as well as through future treatments. If you can keep it up, you’ll also be setting yourself up to be stronger once you successfully come out of treatment, and you’ll likely have a more positive outlook when it comes to cancer and overall health.

Especially during the early stages of your treatment, your immune system will be much weaker in having the ability to fight off illness. Therefore, it is very important that you do whatever you can to support it by taking supplements, particularly Vitamin D and foods that contain several antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E).

Overall Health

Your body’s ability to fight cancer is often predicated upon its strength and how well your body has been maintained for when you do ultimately have to begin treatment.

The bottom line is that the stronger you are, both physically and mentally, the more successful you’ll likely be in getting through treatment while maintaining that strength. In many cases, those who stay active before, during and after their cancer treatment are less likely at risk of recurrence or developing a new cancer unrelated to the original diagnosis.

There is even a fair amount of research and consensus among medical professionals that exercise can reduce the risk of developing cancer in the first place.

If exercise is one of your best weapons against cancer, it doesn’t make sense to shelve it while you’re undergoing treatment.

Intensity Levels

In some cases, patients might have to adjust the intensity levels at which they exercise, particularly if they’re doing so in the following days after a treatment. If your body is telling you that it just doesn’t have the strength to exercise or keep up with a certain intensity level, go with a lighter activity and work your way up until you become stronger.

This could be difficult for those who were previously active before their diagnosis, but those people need to keep in mind that they’re effectively rebuilding their body and strength, so taking it slow is recommended.

Helping your Body

At almost any point in life, exercise is going to be beneficial to your health in a variety of ways. While you may not feel your very best every day, you should try participating in at least some kind of physical activity, and avoid giving into the fatigue and low-energy levels you might expect as a result of your treatment.

The more you can help your body in that situation, the better your short and long-term prognosis will be.

Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer and health enthusiast in the Los Angeles area. She highly encourages those who are combating cancer to include at least some form of physical activity in their daily lives, as it will only help them become stronger in the long term.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 at 12:27 PM and is filed under Exercise, Health and Nutrition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Heidi Bright Parales, MDiv says:

    I agree with what Virginia says, especially when it comes to surgery. The more fit we are going into surgery, the more our bodies can manage the stress of being cut, and the quicker we can recover.

    ... on October 23rd, 2013
  2. Facing Cancer Together says:

    It does feel good to be active. When I stop going for my walks and moving the difference can be immediately felt in energy levels – who knows what is happening inside my body! ~Catherine

    ... on October 23rd, 2013
  3. Beth says:

    As someone who, for half a year, has promised herself, the world and the universe, she would walk every day. I realized I was asking myself too much and so gently started back at the gym this week.
    Thank you, I truly needed to read this.

    ... on October 24th, 2013
  4. Lots To Live For says:

    This is an important post. Increasingly studies have shown that moderate exercise can help pre-treatment, during radiation and chemo, and post treatment as well. Yoga is a great way to exercise because it incorporates spiritual and physical healing. Deep breathing exercises can also help – the relaxation response from breathing can results in decreased tension, anxiety and fatigue. There are a number of breathing and meditation CD’s which you can buy to listen to during treatment (chemo) or at home. There are exercise DVD’s for cancer patients (yoga and gentle stretching) that you can also do from the comfort of your own home.

    ... on October 24th, 2013
  5. tamilb says:

    Thanks so much for the information! DVDs are a great alternative for many survivors who may not feel good enough to get out.

    ... on October 24th, 2013
  6. tamilb says:

    That’s great Elizabeth! I have a gym membership and keep telling myself I will get there soon. Thanks for motivating me!

    ... on October 24th, 2013
  7. tamilb says:

    Walking is great Catherine. For me, breathing the fresh air is half the benefit.

    ... on October 24th, 2013
  8. tamilb says:

    Good point, Heidi!

    ... on October 24th, 2013

Post a Comment