GUEST POST: “Fitness Options for Cancer Recovery” by Melanie Bowen

Fitness Options for Cancer Recovery

The process of cancer recovery can be long and debilitating, which may tempt you to become sedentary. While your body does need rest, it also needs activity to a degree that’s appropriate for your stage of treatment and recovery. Exercise isn’t a cure, but its benefits can go a long way in assisting treatment and helping your body become strong again. It’s always important to talk to your doctor before beginning or changing an exercise program and to follow his or her recommendations.

Light Exercise

During intense phases of treatment, or soon after surgery or other therapies, light exercise will help get you moving again without overtaxing your system; this type of exercise is easily modifiable to meet your present abilities. It shouldn’t cause you to breathe hard, and it shouldn’t make you sweat.

Walking is one of the best exercises all-around, and this holds true during cancer recovery. It’s possible to start slow and easy, maybe even just walking across a room, and then build up to more as your strength and stamina increase. If you have a cancer that affects your lungs and makes it difficult to breathe, such as mesothelioma, you can control your activities while still receiving the benefits of walking.

Walking helps lift your mood as it increases muscle strength and builds stamina. It also builds bone density and helps combat the fatigue that treatments can cause.

Moderate Exercise

As your strength increases, or to help maintain existing fitness levels during treatment, your doctor may recommend moderate exercise. Your breathing will elevate without making you out of breath, and you’ll likely sweat lightly after about 10 minutes.

Water aerobics have several benefits over typical aerobic exercise, especially during cancer treatment and recovery. Exercising in water provides more than 10 times the resistance of exercising on land while creating less stress on your body. Less body stress equals greater comfort for your recovering system, and you won’t overheat in the water.

Water aerobics build cardiovascular strength and improve circulation. They help control weight, keep joints flexible, and also maintain strong muscles and bones.

Advanced Exercise

In the later stages of recovery, your doctor may say that you’re ready for advanced levels of exercise to rebuild your strength and physical conditioning. With advanced exercise, your breathing becomes deeper and faster and you’ll definitely sweat.

Weight training is excellent at this point of recovery although it’s still wise to start slowly and build your abilities. Along with decreased activity during treatment, many cancers can lead to the loss of muscle mass, including prostate, neck, head and stomach cancers. The National Cancer Institute recommends strength training to help rebuild lost muscle.

Resistance training also helps increase bone density, improves cardiovascular function and helps you feel stronger overall with more energy.

Maintaining fitness through regular activity helps your body fight your cancer; it may also help prevent recurrences. Exercise has a significant emotional effect as well in lifting your mood and giving you a sense of well-being, which is essential to continued recovery. Your doctor will recommend appropriate exercise levels, but some kind of movement is important at every stage of your recovery. Keep active, and you’ll notice a real improvement in how you feel.


Melanie is currently a Master’s student with a passion that stems from her grandmother’s cancer diagnosis. She often highlights the great benefits of alternative nutritional, emotional, and physical treatments on those diagnosed with cancer or other serious illness. To read more from Melanie, visit her blog for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. In her spare time, you can find Melanie trying new vegan recipes, on her yoga mat, or spending time with her family.


About Steve Grogan

I am 40 years old, divorced, and a father of four kids. I am a practitioner of a self-defense system called wing chun kung fu. My other hobbies include writing, playing guitar, reading, watching movies, and listening to music. Recently I have gotten back into fitness, and this time I am DETERMINED to get the washboard abs...whether my metabolism will cooperate with me or not! The purpose of this blog is to write not only about my hobbies, but also about whatever crosses my mind, whether it is something I don't understand or something that aggravates me. So join me as I indulge my tendency to think too much about topics that don't usually cross anyone else's mind!
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