How to Battle Cancer Symptoms With Exercise

Three Parts:Balancing Aerobic and Strength Training ExercisesExercising to Avoid the Physical Symptoms of Cancer TreatmentExercising to Counter Mental and Emotional Cancer Symptoms

Following a cancer diagnosis, people often feel stunned and emotionally drained. Fatigue and exhaustion can be even worse during treatment, especially when compounded with the physical symptoms from treatment. Although exercise may be the last thing on your mind when going through the cancer treatments, it has been shown to have mental and physical benefits. Physical exercise can help you battle cancer symptoms. Staying physically active can boost energy levels and decrease weight gain for anyone going through cancer treatment.

Part 1
Balancing Aerobic and Strength Training Exercises

  1. 1
    Walk for three to five hours every day. Although this may sound daunting to cancer patients, and especially to those suffering from fatigue or nausea from chemo therapy or radiation treatments, walking (a light form of aerobic exercise) will help diminish cancer symptoms.[1]
    • If you can’t manage to walk three to five hours a day, plan to walk for at least six hours a week.[2]
    • Getting up and taking a short walk can help keep the circulation healthy in the extremities. A short five minute walk a few times a day may not sound like a lot. Nevertheless, you will feel better in the interim.
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    Focus on aerobic exercise to keep your heart and circulation healthy. Light to moderate intensity aerobic exercises (or “cardio”) are strongly recommended for cancer patients.[3] These exercises will stimulate your heart rate and breathing, and will deliver a higher rate of oxygenated blood to your heart. Focus on forms of exercise like:[4]
    • Running, hiking, or walking.
    • Dancing or rowing.
    • Skiing or snowboarding in winter.
  3. 3
    Balance your aerobic exercise with strength-training workouts. Cancer patients can gain the most benefits through adding weight training, or other forms of resistance training (such as using resistance bands) to their workout regimen.[5]
    • If you live near a gym, you can work on strength training using dumbbells and barbells, or weight machines.
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    Maintain and build muscle mass through strength training. An extended regimen of cancer treatments can leave a patient with poor muscle tone can lead to a longer recovery period. Doing simple strength-building exercises can keep muscles toned.[6] Strength-training exercises will give you more energy, which is important if you feel fatigued or lethargic.
    • Strength training can also maintain bone density, which sometimes suffers during periods of inactivity during cancer treatment.[7]
  5. 5
    Don’t forget to stretch. Although often not considered a form of exercise on its own, stretching is important for cancer patients—especially those who are too fatigued or weak to engage in more active aerobics or weight training. Stretch as many areas as you can, by doing moves like shoulder shrugs, knee lifts, and overhead reaches. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, then slowly relax your body.[8]
    • Stretching can also improve strength in specific bodily locations that may have been weakened during cancer treatment (especially surgery).[9]
    • Stretching will keep your joints and muscles limber.[10] Prolonged periods of inactivity during cancer treatment will stiffen your muscles. Counteract this with regular stretching.

Part 2
Exercising to Avoid the Physical Symptoms of Cancer Treatment

  1. 1
    Increase your ability to recover through regular exercise. Recent studies have shown that cancer patients who maintain an exercise regimen are better able to withstand the harmful side effects of chemo therapy and radiation treatment.[11]
    • In many cases, patients who exercised regularly were able to handle stronger doses of chemo, which can lead to faster and more successful cancer eradication.[12]
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    Reduce your chance of weight gain through aerobic exercises. Cancer treatments (especially chemo therapy) frequently lead to weight gain. Weight gain can also be a concern for cancer patients who lead an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Aerobic exercises are best to help keep the weight off.[13]
    • Conversely, if your cancer treatment causes you nausea, aerobic exercise can sound stomach-turning.
    • For those dealing with inactivity (or even weight loss) due to nausea, moderate exercise can help soothe the stomach and allow food to become palatable again.
  3. 3
    Stay active to reduce fatigue. Fatigue is a common symptom for cancer patients, especially for those going through chemo or radiation therapy. Although it may seem counterintuitive, regular exercise can diminish the amount of fatigue that you feel.[14]
    • Although cancer patients are often told to rest as much as possible, this advice can be counterproductive, as it will
    • Cancer patients who have developed a regular exercise regimen have also reported feeling fewer symptoms from their chemo therapy or radiation treatments.[15]
  4. 4
    Boost your immune system through regular exercise. For individuals diagnosed with cancer, radiation therapy or chemo treatment may diminish your immune system, and catching other illnesses is a risk during this time. Regular, moderate exercise can keep your immune system at full strength and reduce your risk of catching illness.[16]

Part 3
Exercising to Counter Mental and Emotional Cancer Symptoms

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    Exercise to boost moods and avoid depression. For those dealing with cancer treatment, mental health can be a concern. Depression and anxiety are major problems for anyone handling a regimen of cancer treatments. Physical exercise helps pleasure-producing hormones in the brain—these will elevate your mood and can help cancer patients avoid succumbing to despair or depression.
    • Even getting outside for five minutes at a time can make a significant difference in how a patient feels.
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    Remain physically active to feel in control of your body. Exercise can help to counteract the strong feelings of helplessness and fear that accompany cancer. Exercise will give you an encouraging sense of control over your body, and this will provide positive emotional support.[17]
  3. 3
    Exercise regularly to maintain your quality of life. If you regularly exercised before the cancer diagnosis and treatment began, getting back into exercise will give a note or normality. Even if you did not exercise before, getting out for a walk offers an opportunity to reconnect with neighbors and the neighborhood.
    • Going to a gym offers a chance to talk with people and get out of the house. Even taking a stroll down the hospital corridor opens up opportunities to speak with others and to see new faces.


  • It’s important that you exercise at levels that are safe and healthy for you personally. Patients with more advanced cancers, or who suffer more from nausea, may need to restrict their weekly exercise levels. Talk with your doctor to find out how much you can safely exercise each day.[18]
  • Healthy levels of exercise for former cancer patients has also been shown to decrease the chances of cancer recurrence.[19]

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Categories: Alternative Health