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Fighting fit to combat cancer

Publish date: 08/09/2015

Tags: Cancer , Exercise , Fitness


Frankly, exercise is probably the last thing on your mind if you're battling or recovering from cancer. But surprisingly new research says it may be worth giving it a shot.

Why? Well it can boost your mood for a start, but can also lessen some of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and even increase your chances of survival.

Why it helps

Exercise has been proven to reduce depression, anxiety and fatigue and lessen the impact of side effects such as swelling around the arms, mobility problems and weight changes during and after cancer treatment.

Crucially, there's also evidence – with prostate cancer  and breast cancer  for example – that exercise may improve your chances of survival. Cancer charity Macmillan now promotes physical activity with its Move More campaign.

Getting started

Personal trainer Michael Smith, who works closely with cancer survivors, says you should first ask your doctor if it's okay for you to exercise and keep them updated. Then he advises:

• Finding an activity you enjoy: A yoga class or a brisk walk in the park work wonders – just do something regularly.

• Setting two goals: 'The first is to be physically active (i.e. low intensity, like easy walking, or even housework) for 150 minutes per week. Then build up to a moderate intensity of 60-70% of maximum heart rate,' says Michael.

What type of exercise should I do?

• Build muscle: Studies have found resistance work, even easy bicep curls, will help you through treatment and have a positive impact on your health.

• Train at a low intensity: Avoid high intensity interval training during treatment as this can depress your immune system.

• Try gentler exercise: Suitable activities include yoga, Pilates and walking.

For more information on cancer and the treatments, visit our dedicated Cancer Centre or ask one of our experts.


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