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How does exercise benefit people with cancer?

There are many positive benefits to exercise for people with cancer.

  1. Improved aerobic and muscular fitness
  2. The retention of lean body mass
  3. Less fatigue
  4. Improved quality of life
  5. Positive effects on mood and self-esteem
  6. Helps strengthen the immune system

Your mind and your body both need to be in the best shape possible to beat cancer.

By exercising you are doing one of the best things you can do to help your body fight the cancer and stay healthy.

Diana S, NASM Elite Trainer
Fitness Specialist

I’m a cancer survivor myself and know first hand how exercise benefits those with cancer. I also have the benefit of my degree and experience and was able to help myself stay motivated and positive even when it felt so dark. I’ve been honored to help those going into, coming out of or in the thick of, a journey through cancer by educating them on the power of exercise not only for the body but for the soul too.

  • Don’t avoid activity. Take a walk, ride a bike or go for a swim. Daily physical activity along with some type of resistance exercise will keep your bones strong, increase quality of life, decreases cancer related fatigue and help improve daily physical function.
  • The status of your health will determine the proper exercise program and as your health changes, so does the program. There isn’t a one size fits all program because everyone experiences treatment and recovery differently. 
  • Daily activity improves self esteem, body image, and stress management.
  • Length of time one experiences side effects differs so be patient and stay positive.
  • Get the green light from your physician before starting any exercise program. Upon consent, consider teaming up with a degreed health professional to guide, teach and train you through the process safely and successfully.

Most importantly, allow yourself to feel. If you’re blue one day then that’s okay. Allow yourself to feel what each day brings. If it’s not so good, well, tomorrow is a new day. On the good days remember to be as active as your body will let you. You can do it…I’m rooting for you!

Dr. Randolph P. Martin, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)
According to Robert Allen, M.D., an oncologist at Piedmont Hospital, “there is more data emerging now that shows women, particularly breast cancer patients, who are more active and have an ideal body weight have a lower chance of their cancer reoccurring … it literally improves their chances for survival.”  For patients who have undergone chemotherapy and radiation, Dr. Allen recommends that they begin exercising one month after treatment has ended. Even those who weren’t active prior to cancer treatment should begin an exercise regimen after getting the okay from his or her doctor, he adds.

Exercise benefits people with cancer by impacting long term survivability and tolerability of treatment side effects.

Physical activity impacts survival by helping people maintain weight. Overweight and obese people can face worse side effects and survival odds than others with the same cancer. When people with cancer are being treated, physical activity is the least of their concern, but it is an important aspect of their care in the short term and in the long term. In the short term, it improves mood, and there is a general belief that if you keep moving and keep doing, you’re going to feel better in the short-term. In the long term, it’s an important aspect of overall health. Studies have shown that people who are physically active and have an ideal body weight are definitely surviving longer than people who are obese and sedentary. All good habits have an overall benefit in preventing cancer and even when people are diagnosed with cancer.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.