Exercise and moving your body

The words 'Exercise and moving your body' written in white over a picture of a person running and grass in the background

Audrey who is a Macmillan Nurse Specialist on the Support Line, and in our Ask an Nurse section, has been speaking to people living with cancer about staying active and exercising. In today’s Community News Blog, Audrey is sharing information and some resources at the end to help you move your body.

You will find the resource links at the bottom of the page.

In a time where we are all trying to adjust to the constant changes that covid-19 is having on our lives, it is hard to keep up with it all. Having a cancer diagnosis and treatment during the covid-19 pandemic can be scary, lonely and life-altering. Trying to keep a routine and remain active can be even more difficult for people living with cancer. Knowing how best to stay safe and remain active is a common question cancer patients are asking just now.

How much exercise will depend on how fit you are generally. After surgery and chemotherapy, it is important to remember that you are still recovering, and this alone can impact your normal fitness levels.

“After surgery and chemotherapy, it is important to remember that you are still recovering, and this alone can impact your normal fitness levels”.

The rule of thumb is to start slowly and to build up gradually. If you do too much one day, you may feel very tired and sore the next day. Don't feel that you always must do more than yesterday. Some days you'll have more energy than others. Listen to your body and rest on days where you may feel more tired and don’t push yourself to do too much too soon.

If you do too much one day, you may feel very tired and sore the next day. Don't feel that you always must do more than yesterday. Some days you'll have more energy than others. Listen to your body and rest on days where you may feel more tired and don’t push yourself to do too much too soon.”

Being physically active means any movement that uses your muscles and more energy than when you’re resting. You don’t even necessarily need to leave the house to be physically active. It can involve anything from a short walk, walking up and downstairs, online workout, housework to chair exercises.

What is physical activity?

Depending on your situation there may be different types of movement needed to help you move and exercise. There are two types of physical activity:

  • aerobic – this uses more oxygen and improves the way your heart (cardiovascular system) works, for example, a brisk walk

  • anaerobic – which increases your muscle strength and mass, for example, weight training or chair/sitting exercise you can do at home.

It is important to go at your own pace and choose exercises that meet your individual needs:

  • moderate intensity – this is when the activity makes you feel warmer, and breathe faster, but you can still talk; for example, brisk walking, walking up and down stairs, chair exercises or housework

  • vigorous intensity – this is an activity that raises your heart rate and makes you start to sweat and feel out of breath; for example, running, aerobics, online workout, cycling

If you are thinking of starting some exercise after treatment, or for other health benefits then you may find the following suggestions helpful;

  • Start with short chunks of gentle activity.  This can be a few minutes gradually increasing as you feel ready to do so. Then gradually build up until you reach your target or where you feel comfortable.

  • Maybe keeping a journal of your daily activity can help you plan and review what activity you are managing.

  • Find activities that are enjoyable as you are more likely to stick to it. But try not to let past lack of exercise put you off starting altogether. Gentle walking or sitting exercise is fine for just about everyone. You can start to build up day by day.

Resources to help you get started

An image of the Physical activity and cancer booklet

  • Information on the Macmillan website about Staying active.

  • The booklet Physical activity and cancer can be viewed online, downloaded or ordered from our website. If you click on the image it will take you to the website. (A copy of this booklet is included in the Move More resources.)

  • Macmillan Move More guide. This includes a copy of the booklet Physical activity and cancer, flyers about some popular types of physical activity. There is also an activity chart so you can see what you have achieved each day. There's also a Move More DVD which includes gentle activity videos you can do at home.

  • The NHS has some home work out videos that you may find useful, including some chair and sitting exercises.

  • Macmillan have introduced SafeFit, which is a free remote trial for anyone in the UK with a diagnosis of cancer. You will be put in contact with a cancer exercise specialist who will help you during the covid-19 crisis. It is designed to support people living with cancer to maintain and improve their physical and emotional wellbeing, whilst following Government guidelines.

  • There is further information on our website about coronavirus and cancer that may be useful. Our website will be updated as and when anything changes with current coronavirus and restrictions.

We would like to thank Audrey for taking the time to share this information about exercising and keeping active. We hope you have found this helpful.

 

If there are any exercises you do that get you moving, please do share them in the comment box below. We are sure other members would love some ideas from you to get going.

Anonymous
  • Thank you for writing this really helpful blog.  I have been wanting to do some exercise for a while to help my joint pain left over from treatment but did not know where to start.  The tips and guidance are just what I need to get me started.  Thank you for poi nting me in the right direction.

  • Hi 

    Thank you for commenting. I am so pleased that you have found the information in the blog helpful. Please do let us know how you get on with the exercises and I hope the pain in your joint eases. 

    We are always interested to know what information and content our members want to see on the site, so if there is anything in particular you would like to see, please do get in touch. Our email is community@macmillan.org.uk

    Best wishes, 

    Megan
    Macmillan Community Team

  • Thank you very much Megan.  I shall keep you posted!

    Warmest wishes xxx

  • Thank you for the blog. Very interesting.

    The only issue I have is where you say "start with 10 to 15 minute chunks". That's off-putting for some. At my worst during treatment 10 minutes seemed like an unreachable goal. I could manage 2 minutes at the lowest setting on my exercise bike and that's all. At that time I (on the advice of my physio) walked round the island bench in the kitchen as many times as I could and also used that same bench to hold on to to do squats and leg stretches. It all helped.

  • Exercising at the moment is impossible for me I feel so tired and sleep most of the day I used to do yoga but couldn’t face it at the moment I’ve had my 3rd chemo and 4th session is due next week depending on results of scan which I’m due to have in 3days time the tiredness I have is unbelievable with the aching joints