You may not be a sports fan, but most of us have watched an Olympic event over the last few weeks. Here at Macmillan, we’ve even been inspired to host a very enthusiastic and very green Sports Day!

Physical activity can be a great way to let off steam, keep fit and have fun. But if you are living with cancer, exercise can be a worrying thought – What if it’s dangerous? What if my cancer is advanced? What if I’m too exhausted? But if you do what’s safe and comfortable for you, physical activity can help you make a positive change to your life.

Whether you enjoy walking, swimming, yoga or dancing, keeping active in these ways will really help your body. Even just getting up off the sofa regularly will help if that’s an appropriate goal for you.

Is it safe?
Yes – being physically active is safe and has lots of benefits for you. In this blog, we’ll go through how exercise can help you, and importantly, what it’s safe to do.

What can I do?
This depends on your preferences and level of fitness. It’s important to consider:

  • Were you very active before you were diagnosed? If you were, you may be able to carry on with the same activities when you feel up to it. If not, you may want to build it up slowly.
  • Are you having any treatment side effects?
  • Do you have any other conditions, such as heart problems?
  • Do you have any bone loss from the cancer or treatment?

We have more information about being safe and physical activity. You can also talk any of these issues through with your GP or our cancer support specialists.

What benefits can I expect?
Being active during and after cancer treatment can:

  • reduce tiredness (fatigue)
  • reduce stress and anxiety
  • help look after your bones and heart
  • help reduce your risk of getting a blood clot.

You can use our website to find activities near you.

For more information about physical activity if you have cancer, we have a booklet called Physical activity and cancer treatment.

Here’s what one person said about their experience:

“I found taking a walk in the park on sunny days during chemo treatment made me feel so much happier and ready to take on the world again.”

For more personal stories and information from health professionals, we have videos of people talking about the benefits of physical activity.

Getting started
Returning to activity after cancer isn’t always easy. To help you, we have a Move More pack, which includes information and an activity diary. 

Top tips from people who know
Other people with cancer have found these things helpful:

  • Remind yourself of the benefits of being active.
  • Share your plans with other people who are supportive.
  • Don’t become disheartened if you don’t achieve a planned goal.
  • Talk to your GP or nurse specialist for more support.

If the cancer is advanced
If your cancer is advanced, being physically active is still a good thing. You may be able to manage short walks or gentle stretching exercises.  Things like resistance training – making your muscles work against some sort of resistance like a weight – can strengthen your muscles and bones, helping you stay independent.

Being positive and taking control
Deciding to do some physical activity is a great step forward. It’s good for your body but it also provides those all-important things that cancer can take away – positivity and control.

And remember!

  • Don’t exercise if you feel unwell or have any symptoms that worry you.
  • Stop if you feel dizzy, have chest pain, a racing heart, breathing problems or any other sudden symptoms – contact your doctor.
  • Do something you enjoy!

To read about two Online Community members’ experience of becoming more physically active while living with cancer, try Julia and Claire’s Move More blogs.

A very big thank you to our volunteer Mark for writing this week's blog!

Related resources

Physical activity section on our website

Physical activity booklet

Move More pack

Bone health booklet

Coping with fatigue booklet

Coping with fatigue audio CD

Weight management after cancer treatment booklet