The Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients

The Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients

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Most people know that exercise is good for them. It has physical and mental benefits no matter your age, current activity level, or the condition of your health.

For cancer patients, however, exercise may be even more beneficial.

When done properly and in moderation, exercise can help with your emotions, your physical state, and your mental health whether you’ve recently been diagnosed or you’re in the thick of treatment. Even if you’ve just finished your treatment, exercising can help with your recovery in ways you may not expect.

If you haven’t been exercising regularly, it could end up being your secret weapon1 to fight back against cancer and start feeling more like yourself. Let’s cover a few of the important benefits you can expect as you get physical.

It Boosts Your Mental Health

Studies have shown that 1 in 3 people experience mental health issues when they’re dealing with cancer. It’s easy to feel depressed, anxious, or stressed after receiving a diagnosis and going through treatment.

While seeking professional help for any mental health condition is important, there are also things you can do on your own to manage your symptoms daily, including:

  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Journaling
  • Self-care
  • Leaning on your support system

Exercising is another great way to boost your mental health and your moodeach day. It lowers stress, boosts your energy, helps you sleep better, and can even improve your self-esteem – something many cancer patients struggle with.

Staying physically active can also help to regulate your hormones. What does that have to do with your mental health?

When you’re stressed, your body produces more of the “stress hormone” called cortisol. That can cause you to feel more anxious. Your treatments, including chemotherapy, can also impact your hormones and put you at a greater risk for mental health struggles. Even getting in a few minutes of activity each day can combat those hormonal shifts.

It Can Make Treatment Easier

There’s no denying that cancer treatment is difficult. Grueling. Hard to get through at times.

While a tough treatment is needed for a tough illness, some of the complications of chemotherapy can include everything from fatigue and hair loss to infection, nausea, and anemia.

Exercising throughout your treatment can help in a variety of ways.

First, if your treatment is making you feel sick, exercise can help you feel less nauseous and fatigued, making it easier to get through each day. Those are often two of the biggest complaints from chemo patients, so finding any small thing that can help with those symptoms is a big deal.

It also makes it easier to take care of your body every day, warding off other illnesses and keeping you strong throughout treatment. One big benefit is how much physical activity helps with deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Cancer patients are often at a greater risk of developing blood clots. That can be dangerous and usually requires immediate medical attention.

Exercising reduces that risk and helps to improve blood circulation. If you have to sit for most of the day for work, travel, or even at home, a little bit of exercise can go a long way to help prevent DVT.

There will be some days where you feel like you can’t do much as you’re receiving treatment. That’s understandable. Don’t push yourself too far and only do exercises that are approved by your doctor. Everything from stretching and yoga to walking, cycling, and swimming are great options.

On those days when you have a bit more energy and strength, make it a point to get active doing something you enjoy. Your mind and body will thank you, and you’ll be stronger, in the long run.

The Long-Term Benefits

If you’ve officially beaten cancer and you’ve completed your last round of chemo, it’s certainly okay to give yourself a break! Give your body time to relax and repair – you’ve earned it. But, make exercise a priority as soon as you feel up to it. Staying physically active can help you to stay strong and get back to feeling like yourself quickly.

Some of the long-term benefits4 you can expect from exercising include:

  • Boosted immune system to fight off infections3
  • Improved bone and muscle mass
  • Better heart and lung function
  • Reduced morbidity from other co-existing illnesses

Even when you’re cancer-free, exercise should be a regular part of your life. You might even find that you enjoy it so much that you start to do more. It’s a wonderful way to increase your strength and prove to yourself that you can do anything.

Beating cancer is no small feat. If you can do that, you can do anything. Run a marathon, try to lift a goal weight, or take a chance on a dance class you never would’ve tried before. Exercise is a great way to challenge yourself and take full advantage of the next chapter of your life.

The best part? The benefits will never stop.


  1. Your secret weapon during cancer treatment? Exercise!
  2. The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
  3. 5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System – G&G Fitness Equipment
  4. Cancer & Benefits of Exercise | Cancer Foundation for Life