Browser does not support script.
Skip to main content
Find out how we produce our information|
Some people may have concerns about becoming more active, but being active has fewer risks than being inactive. Try doing a little and often, perhaps doing something every day. As you become fitter you’ll find you can do more, so keep building it up. Common sense will guide you.
Your cancer type, treatment or any other conditions you have may influence the sort of activity that’s best for you. If you’re in any doubt, get advice from your doctor.
Your cancer treatment may affect the amount and type of physical activity that’s safe for you to do.
Chemotherapy lowers the number of cells in your blood. During chemotherapy treatment, you’re at more risk of getting infections, having problems with bruising or bleeding and being anaemic.
You’ll have to be careful if your platelets, which help the blood to clot, are low. If you have low numbers of red cells (anaemia), you’ll feel very tired and sometimes breathless. Your doctor may advise you to only do day-to-day activities until it improves. Your doctor can let you know when your blood cells have recovered.
Radiotherapy can cause skin reactions. You’ll need to avoid swimming during treatment because the chemicals in the water can irritate your skin. Once the skin redness and any reaction have gone, it’s no longer a problem.
It’s important to try to get active as soon as possible after surgery. Your doctor will advise you on the right exercises for you and how to gradually build these up. If you have arm or shoulder problems after surgery for breast cancer, ask to see a physiotherapist|.
Hormonal therapy can increase the risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis). Weight-bearing exercise such as walking, dancing or resistance training, helps keep your bones strong and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
Some other conditions and treatment may affect the physical activity that’s right for you.
If you have bone thinning or cancer affecting the bones, you should avoid high-impact physical activities, such as running, jogging, football or hockey. There’s more risk of falling and causing a bone to break (fracture) with these activities. Don’t do exercises that involve bending forward at the waist, such as toe touching.
Suitable activities that can help are walking, dancing, climbing stairs, swimming and resistance exercises. It’s also important to do exercises that improve your coordination and balance to reduce your risk of falling. This can include dance, exercise to music and Tai Chi.
Some chemotherapy drugs can damage the nerves. This causes numbness or tingling in your hands or feet, muscle weakness or difficulty with balance and coordination. It’s important to avoid exercise where you could easily fall.
Always wear a compression garment when you exercise. Avoid doing lots of repetitive action with the affected limb. Swimming can be a helpful activity if you have lymphoedema, but there are other exercises you can do as well. Build up the physical activity involving your arm or leg slowly and ask your lymphoedema specialist for advice.
Most people with heart or lung problems can get involved in regular physical activity that benefits them. You’ll need to check with your doctor or specialist before starting any exercise programme.
If you’re taking any medicines to thin the blood, avoid exercise that could result in bruising from a fall or blow.
Content last reviewed: 1 July 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
If you have any questions about Macmillan we would love to hear from you| .
You can also follow us| on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or YouTube.
© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
what are these?|