Exercising and keeping active during or after cancer treatment can help with fatigue, improve fitness, reduce muscle loss, and help to improve your mental health.
You don’t have to go to the gym to exercise. There are lots of exercises you can do at home which don’t require much equipment.
Remember to start slowly and progress at a pace that is right for you. Try to combine these exercises with some regular aerobic activity like a brisk walk, cycling or swimming.
You could also try:
If you’re disabled or have any concerns about doing more physical activity, talk to your doctor or oncology exercise specialist to help you decide which exercises are best for you.
> Our recent review found that, for women with breast cancer, doing more physical activity lowered the risk of death and the risk of breast cancer recurring. Read more
Note: the following exercises are not recommended for people with an ostomy. An ostomy is a surgically created opening in the body that allows stool or urine to pass either from the intestine or from the urinary tract.
How to do it: stand up straight with your feet directly below your hips and with your knees and toes facing forward. Bend your knees and extend your buttocks backward. Keep your back straight. Push your weight towards your heels. Make sure your knees do not go past your toes. Return to the start position.
How to do it: step forward with one foot and lower the knee of your back leg towards the floor. Don’t bend the knee of your front leg past your toe. Keep your upper body straight. Step back again. Step forward with your other leg. Return to the start position.
How to do it: you can do this exercise against a wall or on the floor.
Against the wall: Stand in front of the wall and hold both hands flat against the wall at shoulder level. Allow your body to move towards the wall by bending your elbows. Push your body away from the wall back to the start position.
On the floor: Start in the push-up position on the floor. You can do this by resting on your feet or you can make the exercise easier by resting on your knees. Place your hands flat on the floor at shoulder level. Allow your body to move slowly towards the floor by bending your elbows. Return to the start position. Make sure you don’t drop your head down and keep your back straight.
How to do it: lay down with your back flat on the floor. Bend your knees and place your feet close to your body flat on the floor. Press your buttocks upwards (off the floor) and hold this position for 2 seconds. Do not lift your head from the floor.
Variation: Hold your hands on your stomach. In this way, your elbows are not on the ground to provide support when holding the position.
How to do it: place your feet on a resistance band (available online or in sports shops; ask an exercise professional or physiotherapist for advice). Grab the end of the band with your palm facing up and your arm straight. Bending at your elbow, pull on the resistance band so that your hand comes up towards your shoulder. Slowly return to the start position, controlling the tension in the resistance band.
Variation: instead of an elastic band you can also use hand weights or bottles filled with water. Always start with a light weight and progress the exercise by increasing the weight when you notice it is getting easier. By starting with a light weight, you will avoid over-exerting yourself.
Talk to a cancer exercise specialist or physiotherapist (your doctor may be able to refer you to one), as they can provide you with a personalised exercise programme tailored to your capabilities and personal situation – this will ensure that your exercise plan is safe and effective during and/or after your cancer treatment.
For more information about the benefits of physical activity and other exercises: