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Exercise During Chemotherapy Is Good For You!

Updated on October 25, 2015
My friend, started two flights behind me, sped through the rest of the course to catch me and make sure I finished. I am on the left.  She had a personal best as did I.
My friend, started two flights behind me, sped through the rest of the course to catch me and make sure I finished. I am on the left. She had a personal best as did I. | Source

Goal Setting

When cancer therapy has been intense, setting goals has helped keep cancer from taking over my life. Going from doctors appointments, to the laboratory, and then to the infusion center can consume what little energy a person may have. Setting goals and figuring out how to meet them enables you to have a life outside of chemotherapy.

The goal for this round of chemotherapy is to run a See Jane Triathlon. Yes, it was confirmed this week, I am crazy.

Before Exercising Be Sure To Ask Your Doctor If Exercise Is OK For You!

Exhausted From Chemo

You are exhausted from chemo, it is a certain side effect. You know you should exercise, but it is difficult when you have energy, when you don't have energy it is nearly impossible.

Exercise is vital to your well being during chemo therapy. You need a friend or accountability partner to make exercise a social event. There will be days when you need someone to drag you down the block or to the gym.

The first time I had cancer treatments there were days I was so tired I just cried.

One of my neighbors would be working from his home office and cry with me.

This is his version. The kids and I, our big dog and silly cat would walk down to the park. I would sit down in front of his house, put my head down and cry on the way home because I was so tired. I don't remember sitting down, but I do remember crying from fatigue.

I would try to sleep, but exhausted as I was, sleep alluded me. The best reason to exercise during chemotherapy is so you can sleep. I developed a fear of not being able to sleep. Medication often gave me nightmares. Exercise, regardless of how much,helped me sleep. My walking partner would call me, or I would call her, we would agree we didn't want to exercise then change into walking shoes and get going. Later I would collapse into well earned sleep.

Reasons to exercise

Chemo therapy is toxic. Because cancer is fast growing chemo targets fast growing cells. It is important you eliminate these toxins as soon as possible so the chemo doesn't effect the slower growing cells..

  • Exercise increases your metabolism thus helping you eliminate the toxins
  • Exercise helps your muscles stay strong so you aren't achy after hours in the infusion chair or waiting for doctors and lab work.
  • Exercise helps you have a better attitude. If you are tired from chemo you get discouraged by lack of energy. Exercise gives you a reason to be tired.
  • Exercise with a friend. A friend will help you through the times when you don't don't feel like exercise.

Having cancer is hard work and you need to be up to the task.

Who Says You Should Exercise

Don't just take my word on the benefits of exercise. I have some experience with exercise having ridden at thousands of miles on my bicycle. The enjoyment of two active grandchildren is made possible by the stamina developed through exercise.

  • When the second bout of cancer showed up I was a candidate for a clinical trial. After blood work and screening I was introduced to "Big Nurse". Big Nurse told tell me what I was going to do with my time while on trial.
  • You are going to take vitamin D and calcium, but no other vitamins.
  • You will drink 3-4 liters of water a day
  • You will exercise at least five days a week.
  • You will also go to the emergency room if your temperature EVER gets over 100.8.
  • You will not get sick.

That is just the short list of things I was to do. There were also exams, scans etc...that have to be done at precisely at the right time and place as determined by the researchers.

Big Nurse went to a workshop and everyone was very impressed with her patients. Her patients were doing really well. "What are you doing that is so different from what we are doing," Her colleagues asked. She said, "Do your patients exercise? Do they drink enough water?" They didn't. Big nurse doesn't give her patients choices, she tells them in the sweetest way they will eat, drink and exercise and go to the emergency room if needed.

The American Cancer Association guidelines for exercise during chemotherapy recommend at least twenty minutes, five days a week for all chemo patients.

My sport trainer brought the ACA study to my attention. He has a vested interest in keeping me healthy. I am his mother and most enthusiastic babysitter.

What Kind Of Exercises Can I Do?

Ask you doctor what kind of exercise you can do. Please do not begin a strenuous exercise routine if you haven't been exercising. When I began the clinical trial I was in training for a 100 kilometer bike ride. Start exercising gradually, listen to your body. If you hurt decrease to a lower level of exercise. Here are some ideas on good exercises to do during chemotherapy:

  • Walking is always good exercise if you have the ability. Not all people can walk. My husband's dad hasn't walked well for years he belongs to Silver Sneakers. This is a national organization that teaches seniors to exercise safely according to their skill level. Many of the exercises they do can be done seated in a chair.
  • Swimming is great for those who can't walk.
  • Bicycling is excellent for those who have joint difficulties. Spinning on a stationary bike or taking a spin class at a gym is probably better than starting outside if you haven't been riding.
  • Pilates frequently uses the reformer machine. This is very good if you have joint issues. I attend mat floor Pilates. Deep breathing is incorporated into Pilates.
  • Yoga helps with stretching and learning how to deep breath.
  • Breathing exercises can be done by virtually everyone who is living.
  • Walk up and down stairs instead of using elevators
  • Laugh! Laughter causes you to use more abdominal muscles than you can imagine and it is so much fun.
  • Hire a fitness trainer if you don't have a friend to work out with.
  • YouTube has excellent videos for all levels of fitness. Exercise along with your favorite video, but exercise to the best of your ability.

No matter what your physical condition you have to move, to remain healthy, especially during chemotherapy. Whether you can run a mile, deep breathe,or dance your feet around sitting in a chair you will be surprised at the benefits of exercise.

Remember laughing is wonderful abdominal exercise. It is good for the spirit and can help relieve pain.

I did finish the See Jane Triathlon eight weeks after my seventh treatment. I met my goal with a little help from my friends.

Funny Story

A couple of days ago I was putting car seats in my truck. I was having a hard time keeping the kids in one place and hooking the car seats onto the proper brackets. I looked at 20 month old baby RA who was trying to climb into her brothers seat I I latched it and said, "Either grammy is going to have to get stronger or smarter if she is going to get this done." RA thought that was so funny. Her laughter got HJ and I laughing so hard I nearly fell out of the truck. When I settled down the hooks latched and we were off.

Little kids enjoy movement. Exercising with them can be lots of fun. Fun makes chemo therapy worthwhile.

If your are walking down the cancer road you have my best wishes. If I can be of any encouragement leave me a comment and I will help if I can.


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    • tirelesstraveler profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Specht 

      5 years ago from California

      Minnetonka Twin , Exercising would be more challenging in Minnesota than Ca. Thanks so much for your prayers.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      5 years ago from Minnesota

      Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us. I am so sorry to hear all you've gone through with this darn disease. It sounds like you are great at taking care of yourself, with or without cancer. Such a useful and informative hub that will help so many going through treatment for cancer. God Bless you-my prayers are with you. Sharing this with hubbers and tweeting.

    • tirelesstraveler profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Specht 

      6 years ago from California

      Thank you for your blessing.

    • stars439 profile image


      6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Wonderful hub, and wishing you many blessings of love in the caring arms of Christ. God Bless You, and everyone you cherish.

    • tirelesstraveler profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Specht 

      6 years ago from California

      I did cut back on exercise during the chemo, I stayed off my road bike because I was unsteady. I did manage 2 spin classes and a couple of yoga classes. Then there was the dog walking. Candidly I exercised my 1st round of cancer because the anti nausea drugs gave me terrible dreams and didn't work well. Medicine has come a long ways in 18 years. I exercised the 2nd time because big nurse and a group of friends said,

      "Get to it".

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I agree that exercise is a key component in fighting fatigue. I was unable to exercise to the extent I exercised before chemotherapy but whatever I did helped.

    • tirelesstraveler profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Specht 

      6 years ago from California

      kjforce- Welcome. When I discovered humor life got so much better. Its taken years for me to convince my husband that his children are wonderful just like him. Once he got the hint he realized how funny they are. Laughter will always be my first go to for pain relief.

      Delighted you do aquatic yoga. It is new to me, but I plan to look into it. People who move are just happier. :)

      I went looking for a picture of your truck and didn't find anything on wickimedia commons. I will keep looking.

    • kj force profile image


      6 years ago from Florida

      tirelesstraveler..I commend you on this hub and sharing your personal experience with the world, you are an inspiration to others and if you only connect with one your deed is accomplished. Exercise is very important to the healing process both physical and mental. I do " aquatic yoga",less stress on joints and balance is great ! Humor is best medicine ever...

    • tirelesstraveler profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Specht 

      6 years ago from California

      Express10-If I ruled the world everyone would want to exercise and be healthy. Thanks for visiting.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 

      6 years ago from East Coast

      Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge. This is a very useful and informative hub.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      A well written very informative hub. Thank you for sharing, all the best with your health.

    • tirelesstraveler profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Specht 

      6 years ago from California

      Vellur- Thanks for the vote. Nice to see you again :)

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      6 years ago from southern USA

      Great research and writing on this hub that will no doubt help countless! You will never know how far-reaching your words spoken here will help those through this process. May God bless you and heal you, In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      Good advice and useful information. My Wishes for health and happiness for you forever and always. Keep well my friend. Voted up and useful.

    • tirelesstraveler profile imageAUTHOR

      Judy Specht 

      6 years ago from California

      Seeker7 I am truly humbled,by you kind words. In our town has a new wall honoring veterans. While looking for my parents bricks a man said to me, You find the one? What name you looking for"? I told him. He just stared. "Did your mom ever belong to the Veterans of Foreign War post here?" "Yes", I replied. He went on to tell me how mom had been his vice commander and the whole story of how he and she made sure the National Cemetery about 70 miles from us came to be. All this to day I come from very good stock. If I am half the woman my mother was, I will be thrilled. Blessings.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      You really through a terrible time and this hub has excellent information for patients. Exercise is important in all circumstances. Voted up and useful.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      This is a really fascinating article and will be a huge benefit to those going through chemo and their family/friends.

      I think what I love about this article the most, is that it encourages people to be pro-active while on chemo. I've had patients in the past whose physical well-being was even more compromised because they had an understandable, negative attitude towards themselves - in the sense of 'I can't do anything now I'm so weak'; 'I'm useless' and so on. But to actually have exercise as part of the treatment is absolutely awesome and makes perfect sense.

      Many congratulations not only for writing this fantastic hub but for being the very brave, pro-active and positive person that you are - your family are very lucky to have such a wonderful Mum!!

      Voted up!!


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