Get Moving: physical activity and exercise

Staying active after cancer can help lower your risk of recurrence and lead to longer survival.

Exercise is so important, we recommend cancer survivors try to return to their normal levels of physical activity as soon as possible after diagnosis.

Just 30 minutes of moderate activity a day can:

  • Reduce the risk of recurrence or developing cancer
  • Improve physical functioning
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Improve mood, self-esteem and body image
  • Reduce fatigue, nausea and pain
  • Help maintain a healthy body weight
  • Improve overall quality of life
     
Breakthroughs - Jim Murphy on bike Jim Murphy, esophageal cancer survivor

Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination, according to the 2008 Activity Guidelines for Americans.

For cancer survivors who are inactive or just starting a physical activity program, even a small increase can be beneficial. If you don’t exercise regularly, start slowly and gradually increase your duration and intensity.    

For those already physically active, increasing activity can still benefit your health. In fact, exceeding 300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week can provide even greater protection against developing cancer.

We also recommend cancer survivors try strength training exercises at least two days per week.

You should always consult with your providers before beginning a vigorous physical activity program. Ask your doctor about a consultation with our rehabilitation team.

Regardless of how much physical activity you get, staying sedentary for long periods can negatively impact your health and increase your risk of developing cancer.

Reduce sedentary behavior by:
  • Using the stairs
  • Limiting TV and screen time
  • Stretching or jogging in place during commercial breaks
  • Using a stationary bicycle or treadmill when watching TV
  • Walking or biking to your destination
  • Parking at the far corner of the parking lot and walking
  • Using your lunch break to exercise with coworkers, family or friends
  • Taking short exercise breaks to stretch or go for a quick walk
     

Exercise:

  • Moderate Intensity Activities: Walking, dancing, leisurely bicycling, ice and roller skating, horseback riding, canoeing, yoga    
  • Vigorous Intensity Activities: Jogging or running, fast bicycling, circuit weight training, swimming, jumping rope, aerobic dance, martial arts
     

Sports: 

  • Moderate Intensity Activities: Downhill skiing, golfing, volleyball, softball, baseball, badminton, doubles tennis    
  • Vigorous Intensity Activities: Cross-country skiing, soccer, field or ice hockey, lacrosse, singles tennis, racquetball, basketball
     

At home:

  • Moderate Intensity Activities: Mowing the lawn, gardening    
  • Vigorous Intensity Activities: Digging, carrying and hauling, masonry, carpentry
     

On the job: 

  • Moderate Intensity Activities: Walking and lifting as part of the job (e.g., custodial work, farming, auto or machine repair)    
  • Vigorous Intensity Activities: Heavy manual labor (e.g., forestry, construction, firefighting)
     
 
 

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