In the past, doctors advised cancer patients to rest after treatment, but today, more clinicians and oncologists recommend exercise as a strategy to reduce side effects of treatment, speed recovery and improve overall quality of life. In a comprehensive evidence review by the UK-based McMillan Cancer Support, physical activity after cancer treatment was found to reduce the impact of debilitating side effects, such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, impaired mobility and weight changes.
Tips for exercising after cancer therapy
During the months following cancer treatment gradually start to become more active.
1. Find an activity you enjoy A yoga class or a relaxing walk in the park works wonders.
2. Do resistance work Easy exercises such as bicep curls, squats and lunges will have a positive impact.
3. Become physically active Start with low-intensity exercise, such as easy walking, or even housework for 150 minutes weekly. Build this up to a moderate intensity (60–70 per cent of maximum heart rate).
4. Make it a habit Frequency and consistency are important.
5. Avoid swimming after radiotherapy It can cause skin irritation if done too soon afterwards.
6. Train at a low intensity High-intensity interval training during treatment can depress the immune system. Recommended activities include yoga, pilates and walking.
7. Exercise to relieve stress A punch bag or boxing gloves and pads are perfect, but don’t overdo it!
8. Listen to your body Check with your doctor before embarking on any new exercise or fitness regime.