Managing your fatigue

There are things you can try to help reduce your fatigue.

Being physically active may give you more energy. It can also boost your appetite and help you sleep better. Start slowly and choose an activity you enjoy. Some exercise is always better than no exercise. It might help to set some simple goals. This could be walking from the front door to the back door. But try to do a little more activity each time, if you can. It is important to get advice from your healthcare team before you start or increase your activity.

Eating well and keeping to a healthy weight can help you maintain or regain your strength. Your doctor or nurse can refer you to a dietitian who can give advice on your diet.

Feeling stressed or anxious can also be tiring. Try to find ways to relax. There are relaxation techniques you can use to relieve tension and increase your energy. Complementary therapies may also help. Speak to you GP about these therapies.

Getting good quality sleep can also help reduce your fatigue. There are ways to help you get a better night’s sleep, such as maintaining a sleep routine.

Macmillan and the University of Southampton have developed a new online resource for people with fatigue called RESTORE. RESTORE provides information about things you can do to help you cope with fatigue and feel more confident to manage it. Register to use the tool.

Things you can do

There are things you can try yourself to reduce your fatigue. Physical activity and changes to your diet can help with fatigue. Talk to your cancer doctor, specialist nurse or GP before you make any big changes. They will make sure what you are planning is suitable for you.

My advice would be to make life easy for yourself whenever possible. Get to bed at a decent hour, get enough sleep and eat well.


Physical activity

There is good evidence that physical activity can help reduce the symptoms of fatigue. Being active may help:

  • boost your appetite
  • give you more energy
  • improve sleep.

If you have not been very active in the past or for a long time, it is best to start slowly. Try to get a balance between being active and getting some rest.

Choose an activity or exercise that you enjoy, as you are more likely to keep doing it.

If you have fatigue, being active may not always be possible. Remember that some exercise is always better than no exercise. It might help to set some simple goals. This could be walking from the front door to the back door. But try to do a little more activity each time, if you can.

Before you start doing any physical activity or increase the amount you do, it is important to get advice from a healthcare professional.

Your cancer doctor, specialist nurse or GP can advise you on the type and amount of activity that is safe for you to do. They can also refer you to a physiotherapist who can help you with some exercises to build up strength and energy. Talk to them about any other medical conditions you have, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or lung problems. These may be affected by physical activity.

Specialist cancer physiotherapists may be available in some areas. They can help you set realistic goals to keep you active and manage any side effects of treatment. Your GP or cancer doctor can refer you.

The physiotherapist may refer you to an exercise programme. These are run by healthcare professionals or experienced fitness trainers. Many people find socialising with other people in a group enjoyable. Exercising as part of a group can also help you to stay motivated.

Tips for keeping active

  • Do not exercise if you feel unwell, are in pain or have any other symptoms that worry you, such as feeling breathless. If you feel unwell or have worrying symptoms, let your doctor know.
  • It is helpful to set yourself some simple achievable goals. Try not to do too much too soon.
  • Plan some activity into your day. For example, walk to the shops instead of driving, if you can.
  • Try some regular, light exercise, such as walking, and simple strengthening exercises.
  • Do something you enjoy, such as gardening.

We have more information on physical activity.

Exercise helps me deal with the fatigue. I experience a form of adrenaline rush which makes me feel wide awake.


Healthy diet and weight

Eating well and keeping to a healthy weight can help you maintain or regain your strength. It can also give you more energy. Your GP can advise you and give you information on your ideal weight.

Eating a healthy diet and keeping to a healthy weight reduces the risk of heart problems, diabetes and developing some cancers.

It can help to:

  • keep a diary of what and when you eat – this can help you see if you have more energy after certain meals
  • drink plenty of fluids
  • try different foods or eat foods that taste best to you if you have taste changes, until things improve
  • ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian – they can give you helpful ideas.


Even though your fatigue may make you feel like sleeping all the time, try to keep to a normal sleep routine. Good-quality sleep may help with fatigue, as well as reduce your need to sleep during the day.

Tips for a better night’s sleep

  • Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day.
  • Try not to sleep late into the day after a sleepless night, as this can lead to a disrupted sleep pattern.
  • Try to do gentle exercise like walking, as this can help you feel naturally tired and ready for sleep.
  • Keep your mind occupied with activities like reading, games or puzzles. This can also help you feel naturally ready to sleep.
  • Be aware of how naps affect you. Some people find that daytime naps help them sleep better at night, while others sleep less well after them.

We have more information if you are having difficulty sleeping.

Complementary therapies

There are different complementary therapies that may help with fatigue, such as:

  • relaxation
  • massage therapy
  • yoga.

Many people feel that complementary therapies are supportive and can help you feel more in control of your health.

Some complementary therapies have been researched. But for other therapies, the evidence is based on people’s personal accounts (anecdotal) rather than on facts.

Some of these therapies may be available on the NHS. Your GP can give you more details. You may also be able to get them through a cancer support group. If you find a complementary therapist, make sure that they are properly qualified and registered.

Before you use a complementary therapy, talk to your specialist doctor or nurse. Some therapies may affect your cancer treatment.

It’s really important to make time to rest, relax and revitalise. Know your body and don’t battle it constantly.


Back to Tiredness (fatigue)

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is feeling very tired most, or all, of the time. It is a very common problem for people with cancer.

What causes fatigue?

The cause of cancer-related-fatigue (CRF) is not fully understood. There may be many reasons for it.

Living with fatigue

Planning ahead can help if you have fatigue. There are things you can do to make everyday life easier.