Staying healthy after cancer: be physically active
- Physical activity helps to reduce the symptoms of fatigue, the side-effects of cancer treatments, and improves your overall wellbeing and heart health.
- Regular physical activity builds up your physical fitness level, improves your energy, strength, balance, stamina and co-ordination.
- Physical activity encourages your body to release endorphins. These are often called ‘feel-good hormones’. When released, they can lift your mood and sense of wellbeing.
Find out more about the link between physical activity and cancer.
Getting started after cancer treatment
How much exercise should I do to help reduce the risk of my cancer coming back?
Tips for getting fit
- Keep your head up and look forward.
- Relax your shoulders and neck.
- Pull in your tummy muscles and keep your back straight.
- Walk smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.
- Swing your arms freely with a slight bend in your elbows.
- Do some gardening.
- Do some simple stretching exercises while watching television.
- Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator.
- Do vigorous housework such as vacuuming or mowing the lawn.
- Get off the bus or train one stop earlier or park further away from your destination and walk the rest of the way.
- Take your children or grandchildren to the park or kick a ball around the garden.
- Take a dance class.
- The website www.getirelandactive.ie has tips for people of all ages who want to be more active. It also has a list of popular exercise apps which you can try if you have a smart phone, many of which are free.
Tips for exercising safely after cancer treatment
- Exercise on a flat surface and avoid exercises that might increase your risk of falling or injuring yourself.
- Make sure you drink enough water during and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
- Wear well-fitting, supportive shoes like laced, flat shoes or trainers
- Consider using the gym. If you are just starting to exercise regularly you may feel more comfortable during off-peak times, when the gym is quieter.
- If you had radiotherapy and had a skin reaction, avoid swimming pools until after your skin has healed. The chemicals in the water may cause an irritation.
- If you get chest pain, dizziness, nausea, difficulty breathing or a racing heart, do stop the exercise and tell your doctor.
- Do not exercise if you feel unwell, are breathless, in pain, or have any symptom that worries you. Discuss it with your doctor.
- Avoid high-impact exercises or contact activities if you have bone cancer or osteoporosis (bone-thinning).
Physical activity programmes after cancer treatment
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Find out more about stying healthy after cancer on our next page about quitting smoking.