Thriving After Treatment: Fitness and Workout Tips for Cancer Survivors

April 15, 2024 / Health
Thriving After Treatment: Fitness and Workout Tips for Cancer Survivors

Cancer survivorship is a comprehensive concept that includes individuals diagnosed with cancer at any stage, starting from diagnosis onward. This category encompasses those currently undergoing treatment and individuals who have completed treatment and show no signs of cancer.

Embarking on the recovery journey after cancer treatment is a monumental feat marked by resilience, strength, and hope. However, for many survivors, physical activity becomes a key component of reclaiming their health.

According to the American Cancer Society Journals, around 18 million Americans with a history of cancer were still alive in January 2022. 53% of the cancer survivors were diagnosed with cancer ten years back, and 18% were diagnosed 20 years back. 

Incorporating fitness and exercise into the routine of cancer survivors plays a crucial role in reclaiming physical health and overall well-being. It can even extend life expectancy by up to many years.

In this article, we will offer a roadmap for navigating the post-treatment phase with vigor and vitality for building strength and endurance.

Start Slow and Gradually Increase the Intensity

One key principle for cancer survivors embarking on a fitness journey is to start slow and gradually increase intensity. This approach allows survivors to build strength and endurance at a pace that is safe and comfortable for their bodies. Starting with low-impact activities such as walking, gentle yoga, or swimming can help rebuild stamina and muscle tone without putting much strain on the body.

As survivors progress, they can gradually increase the intensity of their workouts by adding resistance training, cardio exercises, or challenging yoga poses. Survivors can build a solid foundation for long-term fitness and well-being by listening to their bodies and honoring their limits.

As outlined by, physical activity can be classified into three tiers: light, moderate, and vigorous. It’s recommended that cancer survivors aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly.

  • Light activity: This level of activity involves not being sedentary, such as when you’re washing dishes, walking slowly, preparing food, or making the bed. While not strenuous, you’re not inactive either.
  • Moderate activity: This activity level increases breathing rate, but you can still converse without feeling breathless. Examples include walking briskly, ballroom dancing, canoeing, and gardening.
  • Vigorous activity: This activity significantly increases your heart rate, breathing, and sweating. It often makes it difficult to hold a conversation. Examples include jogging, jumping rope, and swimming.

Incorporate Strength Training

Incorporating strength training into a fitness routine can be incredibly beneficial for cancer survivors. Strength training helps build muscle mass, which may have been lost during treatment, and can improve overall strength and endurance. It can also help survivors maintain a healthy weight, which is important for reducing the risk of cancer recurrence.

However, it’s important for survivors to approach strength training with caution and to consult with their healthcare team before starting a new exercise regimen. Starting with light weights or resistance bands and focusing on proper form can help prevent injury.

It’s also important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard, especially during or after treatment. Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your strength training workouts can help you safely build strength and improve your overall fitness.

Prioritize Cardiovascular Exercise

For cancer survivors, engaging in cardiovascular workouts is vital as it enhances heart health, builds endurance, and uplifts mood. Swimming, cycling, or walking are excellent choices for survivors seeking to integrate cardio activities into their regimen.

According to WHO, those who have a sedentary lifestyle without any kind of physical activity have a 20-30% increased risk of death. Consistent physical activity not only lowers the likelihood of cancer but also diminishes the chances of cancer recurrence among survivors. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to approach cardiovascular exercise with care and heed your body’s signals.

Initiate your routine gradually, then progressively elevate the intensity and duration of your workouts. Be mindful of your sensations during and post-exercise, and adapt your regimen as needed.

Additionally, maintaining hydration and selecting low-impact activities are essential for joint health. Consulting with your healthcare provider prior to embarking on a new exercise plan can guarantee safe and beneficial workouts.

Seek Support and Professional Guidance

Seeking support and professional guidance is crucial for cancer survivors looking to build their physical health through exercise. Consulting with a healthcare provider can help survivors create a safe and effective exercise plan tailored to their specific needs and limitations.

According to Wilkes University, seeking support from a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) degree holder online can provide valuable insights and guidance. Collaborating with healthcare professionals and seeking support from online resources can empower cancer survivors to take control of their health and well-being.

Those with a DNP degree online are advanced practice nurses who can offer expertise in managing chronic conditions, including cancer survivorship. They can help survivors navigate the complexities of their health and provide personalized recommendations for exercise and overall wellness.

Listen to Your Body

Listening to your body is paramount for cancer survivors embarking on a fitness journey. After undergoing treatment, your body may have different needs and limitations, and it’s essential to honor those signals. Be mindful of your sensations both during and after physical activity, and modify your regimen as necessary.

If you encounter discomfort, fatigue, or pain, it’s crucial to reconsider your approach. Recognize that rest and recuperation are equally vital components of fitness, and excessive strain may result in injuries or setbacks. By attuning to your body’s signals and honoring its limitations, you can develop a lasting and gratifying exercise routine that enhances your overall health.

Maintain a Balanced Diet

Ensuring a well-rounded diet is paramount for cancer survivors’ well-being. Opting for nutritious foods aids in weight management, lowers the likelihood of cancer recurrence, and enhances overall health.

A varied diet incorporating vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats, and ample water intake is recommended. These nutrient-rich foods bolster the immune system, facilitate healing, and sustain energy levels.

Additionally, a balanced diet can help survivors manage the side effects of treatment, such as fatigue, nausea, and digestive issues. By prioritizing nutrition and eating a balanced diet, cancer survivors can support their recovery and improve their quality of life.

Stay Hydrated and Rested

Staying hydrated and getting proper rest are essential components of post-treatment recovery for cancer survivors. Sufficient hydration is essential to support the body’s innate healing mechanisms, sustain optimal organ function, and eliminate harmful toxins. Furthermore, maintaining adequate hydration levels can alleviate prevalent side effects of cancer therapy, including fatigue, nausea, and dry mouth.

Proper rest is equally important, as it allows the body to repair and regenerate cells, replenish energy stores, and reduce stress levels. Quality sleep is especially crucial for immune function, mood regulation, and overall well-being. By prioritizing hydration and rest, cancer survivors can support their bodies in healing and thriving faster after treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of exercises are safe for cancer survivors after treatment?

After cancer treatment, it’s generally safe for survivors to engage in a variety of exercises, including walking, swimming, gentle yoga, and cycling. Engaging in low-impact exercises can aid in rebuilding strength and endurance while minimizing strain on the body. It’s essential for survivors to collaborate with their healthcare team to devise a tailored exercise regimen suited to their specific requirements.

How soon can cancer survivors start incorporating fitness routines post-treatment?

Cancer survivors can typically start incorporating fitness routines shortly after completing treatment. Yet, the optimal timing can fluctuate based on individual situations and the specific treatment administered. It’s imperative for survivors to confer with their healthcare professionals to ascertain the suitable timing and level of exercise. It will be based on their specific condition and any lingering side effects from treatment.

Should cancer survivors consult with healthcare professionals before beginning a fitness regimen?

Absolutely. Healthcare professionals can provide personalized recommendations based on the survivor’s specific health status, type of cancer, and treatment history. They can also help identify any potential risks or limitations and ensure that the fitness regimen is safe and appropriate for the survivor’s needs.

In conclusion, embarking on a fitness journey after cancer treatment is a pivotal step toward reclaiming health and well-being. By incorporating a balanced diet and seeking professional guidance, survivors can cultivate a sustainable fitness routine that supports their physical and emotional recovery.

Whether engaging in light, moderate, or vigorous activities, survivors can empower themselves to thrive in life after cancer. Through perseverance, support, and a commitment to self-care, survivors can embrace the journey ahead with resilience and vitality.

Posted by
Thomas Richards
Thomas is a trainer with 10+ years of experience as a Personal trainer and Sports Performance Coach. He holds an 'International Sports Science Association' (ISSA)- certification for personal training and under the 'National Sports Performance Association' (NSPA) a certification in Speed and Agility Coaching (CSAC).