NACES - Questions - ACS
American Cancer Society

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Should I exercise during cancer treatment and recovery?

Research strongly suggests that exercise is not only safe during cancer treatment, but it can also improve physical functioning and many aspects of quality of life. Moderate exercise has been shown to improve fatigue (extreme tiredness), anxiety, and self-esteem. It also helps heart and blood vessel fitness, muscle strength, and body composition. People getting chemotherapy and radiation may need to exercise at a lower intensity for a time, and build up more slowly than people who are not getting cancer treatment. The main goal should be to stay as active as possible.

Q: Are there special precautions survivors should consider?

Certain issues for cancer survivors may prevent or affect their ability to exercise. Some effects of treatment may increase the risk for exercise-related problems. For example:

People with severe anemia (low red blood cell counts) should delay activity until the anemia is better.

Those with weak immune function should avoid public gyms and other public places until their white blood cell counts return to safe levels.

People getting radiation should avoid swimming pools because chlorine may irritate the skin over the treatment area.

For those who were inactive before diagnosis, low-intensity activities should be started and slowly advanced. Certain people should use caution to reduce the risk of falls and injuries:

Older people

Those with bone disease (cancer in the bones or thinning bones, such as osteoporosis)

People with arthritis

Anyone with nerve damage

Q: Can regular exercise reduce the risk of cancer coming back?

It is not known whether exercise will reduce the chances that cancer will come back or slow cancer growth. But being overweight or obese has been linked with increased risk of many types of cancer and with the risk of some cancers coming back after treatment. It is known that physical activity can help prevent and reverse weight gain. Physical activity also helps to prevent heart and blood vessel disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. For these reasons, cancer survivors should be encouraged to have a physically active lifestyle.

Source: American Cancer Society, Nutrition and Physical Activity During and After Cancer Treatment: Answers to Common Questions

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