Physical therapies and cancer
Regular physical activity improves energy levels and muscle tone, and can ease tension and fatigue. It also promotes health and positive emotions.
Health-related benefits include improved fitness, muscle strength and stamina. Many people get these benefits from something as simple as walking. Some people find additional benefits in structured types of exercise that aim to work on the mind as well as the body.
Some types of physical activity, such as yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, are designed to work both the body and the mind. In general they use gentle, controlled, low-impact movements combined with breathing exercises. They can usually be done by people of all ages and of varying levels of fitness.
There are many different types of yoga. They all involve putting the body into different positions or postures (asanas), breathing exercises and some form of meditation or relaxation.
Some types of yoga use very gentle stretching, movement and meditation. Other types of yoga may involve more vigorous physical movement and dietary changes.
Yoga is generally safe, but people with some types of cancer may find it difficult to get into some of the positions suggested.
Some people who have cancer find that practising yoga helps them cope with their illness and feel better generally. A recent study found that people who followed a four-week yoga course after they completed their cancer treatment had fewer problems sleeping and felt less fatigued.
Yoga may also be useful in relieving menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes and joint pains. In another study, women treated for early-stage breast cancer followed a yoga course that included breathing exercises, yoga postures, meditation, visualisation and stress management. The women taking part had fewer and less severe hot flushes, less joint pain and said they felt more energetic.
Some hospitals offer yoga classes.
You can get information about local classes from the British Wheel of Yoga.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong (sometimes spelled Chi Kung) come from Chinese medical traditions. They incorporate elements of mind- body therapies, energy-based therapies and physical therapies. Both use gentle movements and mental exercises with the aim of balancing the energy or the vital force (chi) of the body.
Tai Chi focuses on building strength, balance and flexibility through slow, fluid movements combined with mental imagery and deep breathing. It can improve people’s general health.
Qi Gong involves practising a series of mental and physical exercises to improve health.
Both Tai Chi and Qi Gong can help generate a sense of well-being and peace. The slow flowing movements increase strength and flexibility, and improve balance and circulation.
You can get more information about Tai Chi or Qi Gong and local classes from the Tai Chi Finder and the Qi Gong Association
How have we created this information?
Read our statement about how we have written and reviewed our information about complementary therapies.