Evidence Search

What exercise should you be doing?

There is now a lot of evidence to show that aerobic exercise and resistance training should be part of every cancer treatment. The benefits of exercise reach far and wide, from improving symptoms of chemotherapy to reducing the risk of recurrence. 

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An international guideline published in 2019 advises that anyone with cancer should be doing the following:

3 x 30 minutes of aerobic exercise that gets you sweaty whilst you're doing it.

2 x 30 minutes of resistance trianing to keep your muscles and bones strong. 



ASCO 2019 recommendations


If you're having treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it will reduce the side effects, both mental (fatigue, anxiety, depression) and physical (muscle weakness) and also reduce hospital admissions due to complications. For those of you who have finished treatment, exercise will improve your bone strength, help with fatigue and can also reduce the risk of recurrence. 

Aerobic exercise

This can be anything you like, but you need to get you heart rate up to get the benefits. That means only being able to talk in 3-4 word sentences. Do it by time and not by the distance you run / cycle / jog etc, as you'll have days where you're not feeling so good and won't be able to do as much. It's OK if you need to stop and take rest breaks too.

Resistance exercise

This is almost more important that the aerobic exercise. If you keep your leg muscles strong, you'll be able to cope at home for a lot longer as you'll be able to go upstairs and get up off the toilet without needing anyone to help you. It can all be done at home using water bottles as weights to start with. A starting routine would be lunges, squats (with a chair behind you to sit down on to) and press-ups (against a kitchen counter, then a wall, then your knees and then full press-ups as you get stronger). Do one exercise ten times, rest for a minute or two, and then repeat twice (so three rounds in total). Then do the same for the next two exercises. 


Click here to read the full article

Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors: Consensus Statement from International Multidisciplinary Roundtable.  K L Campbell et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc.  2019 Nov;51(11):2375-2390.