Your Post-Chemotherapy Exercise Guide

By Melissa Walker
Reviewed by Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS

You’ve made it through chemo—what a huge accomplishment! Having gotten over such a big hurdle, feeling tired and run down is expected as your body recovers and renews itself. Becoming active may not be your first priority once chemo ends, but it should be on your mind. Move More, a recent report from Macmillan Cancer Support, a leading British cancer charity, included data from more than 60 studies and showed that light exercise is a form of treatment in itself and may even help reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. The goal is to start slowly and increase your level of activity over time, as you’re able.

Here are six tips for exercising after chemo and getting on the path to a healthy and safe physical routine:

  1. Work with a certified cancer-survivor fitness professional. Accredited organizations, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, offer certified cancer exercise trainer designations. These trainers are specially trained to deal with people who’ve undergone chemotherapy. To find a qualified trainer in your area, contact the American Cancer Society.
  2. Create a routine. Notice when you’re feeling your best. Is it in the morning? After lunch? Make that your time for physical activity, and set an alarm on your phone or alarm clock so you don’t forget; when it dings, get moving, whether that means an at-home treadmill, a walk with a friend or a yoga video.
  3. Set short-term goals. Maybe you want to be able to complete the neighborhood loop, so you walk to the next-farthest mailbox each day. Or perhaps you simply strive to get up and collect your own mail. Whatever your short-term goal, set it, meet it, and then up the ante with each success.
  4. Start slowly. Warm up with small movements, such as toe taps, shoulder shrugs and in-place marching. Listen to your body, and rest as needed. If you find your endurance is low, try exercising for just 10 minutes—three sessions of 10 minutes a day will give you the same benefits as 30 minutes in a row.
  5. Just start moving! Think about what opportunities for movement your day already offers. Walk the dog, sweep and vacuum your floors, put away the dishes, play with your kids or grandkids or just dance around to songs on the radio—all of these are physical strengtheners!
  6. Ask for support. How often do your friends, family members and coworkers ask if they can help? Well, why not make them part of your fitness regimen! Ask for exercise partners who will take walks with you at lunch, try a new yoga class at the gym or just sit and stretch while you chitchat.

Always talk first with your oncologist, who will advise you on what your body needs. If you’re not cleared for exercise, ask about gentle stretching routines. Remember to get fresh air, balance activity with rest and try to continue to enjoy hobbies that don’t tire you.

  Exercise

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Your Post-Chemotherapy Exercise Guide

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