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Cancer and Physical Activity

Cancer and Physical Activity

If you are a cancer survivor or are currently living with cancer, being physically active is an important part of your recovery and long term health. Research shows that physical activity is helpful before, during and after cancer treatment. Physical activity may also lower the risk of breast, colorectal and prostate cancer returning.

During and after cancer treatment, physical activity can help you:

  • Reduce the side effects of treatment, such as fatigue
  • Maintain muscle strength and prevent joint stiffness
  • Boost self-confidence and a feeling of control over your health
  • Manage anxiety and depression
  • Maintain your independence
  • Reach and stay at a healthy weight
  • Improve sleep, giving you more energy for daily activities

For most people, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week is encouraged. This means increasing your heart rate and breathing rate. Walking briskly and cutting the lawn are good examples of moderate intensity activities.

It is also beneficial to include regular muscle and bone strengthening activities. Aim to add strengthening activities at least two days per week and to include all major muscle groups. This could include activities such as lifting weights, using resistance bands or heavy yard work.

Lastly, for those with balance difficulties, maintaining and challenging your balance can reduce the risk of falls and help you feel more confident. For example, Tai Chi is an activity that focuses on balance.

Before becoming more physically active, check with your doctor or health care team to see what types and amounts of activities are best for you. Consider working with a qualified exercise professional with cancer-specific training. They can help you find activities or create a program that will suit your needs.

Useful Websites

BC Cancer Agency

The BC Cancer Agency is a provincial agency that provides cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and research services and resources across B.C. This website provides information on BC Cancer Agency services and resources about physical activity, how to cope with cancer, and the side effects of treatment. For information on returning to work, healthy eating, active living and lifestyle choices that promote overall health and exercise support, click on the links below:

Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization. This website provides information about prevention and treatment of cancer including research, support and services.

Last Reviewed: May 2018

©2017 Province of British Columbia. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided the source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a health professional. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.