PLEASE REMEMBER : all people receiving cancer treatment should consult with their doctor before engaging in an exercise programme. Ideally, an exercise programme should be conducted in a supervised setting where full assessment and goal setting can take place. Thereafter, home based programmes can be followed. 

Exercise needs to be done for enjoyment as well as for improving endurance, strength and mobility so please pick an activity that you enjoy! Exercising with a “gym buddy” can make it even more fun – even if your “gym” is at home.

Start slowly! All humans have to crawl before they walk!!! Start off by walking for five minutes, turn around and walk back. When you can manage this, without feeling too exhausted, increase it to twice a day.

Once you are able to do 2 X 5 minutes per day you should start to increase the time spent exercising by a maximum of 10% per week. If you walked for a total of 45 minutes this week, walk a total of 50 minutes next week, 55 the next week etc. Your goal should be to exercise three or four times a week.

If you previously did weights you should decrease the weights, and the sets, by half during treatment.

Keeping an exercise journal will help you to adjust your goals. This can be done with the help of your physiotherapist. Adjusting the frequency and intensity of exercise will be required, especially if fatigue is evident.


Warm up

  • Reduces susceptibility to injury.
  • Should comprise of 5-10 minutes of low intensity exercise (e.g. slow walk)
  • Include stretches (hold stretches for 20 seconds)

Specific Exercise

  • Aerobic exercise (exercise to increase the heart rate) including: stationary bicycle, swimming, rowing, aqua aerobics
  • Do not do these if you are very ill
  • Between 10 and 20 minutes per exercise session
  • Only increase your heart rate by up to 40%-60%


  • Concentrate on muscle groups e.g. legs, then arms then abdominal muscle groups
  • Initially do not use weights
  • Aqua therapy is excellent. It builds strength and increases mobility, and endurance. The buoyancy decreases the stress on weight bearing joints.

Cool Down

  • Cool down gradually to allow recovery time for the heart and muscles.The cool down must include stretching.

In the next issue we shall start introducing simple exercises for each of the above components.

Written by Nicole Redman

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