Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients and Survivors

Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients and Survivors

When I had cancer there was no mention of exercise as part of my treatment or recovery. It was never brought up by anyone on my health care team. Advice for cancer patients used to be: “rest and avoid activity”.

Well times they are a changin’ and exercise recommendations are now a more regular part of cancer treatment and survivorship as new evidence is emerging on the benefits of exercise.

In an interview posted on YouTube, cancer exercise specialist Jay Herdson from Johns Hopkins Cancer Center had this to say about the benefits of exercise for cancer patients—he reports that with exercise, treatment is improved; and there is an improvement in many side effects such as fatigue (in as little as 1 workout), improved mood, better weight control, reduced anxiety, and improved sleep and mental clarity.

Benefits cited from other sources are: fewer falls and bone fractures and higher quality of life. Most importantly for many patients, exercise can prevent recurrence and death from cancer.

Exercise programs should include warm-up and cool-down, as well as the following 5 elements:

  1. strength
  2. cardiovascular
  3. core-stability
  4. balance
  5. flexibility

Avoid focusing on just one element such as doing only cardiovascular training. If you are a bit intimidated to get started on your own, there are now many exercise specialists who have done additional training to understand the unique needs of cancer patients. They would have the designation of CES—“Cancer Exercise Specialist”—so look for a trainer with this qualification.

Remember to set short and intermediate range goals to support your long-term goal. This will help you to see your progress and feel a sense of accomplishment as you achieve milestones on your way to the big prize.

Currently for cancer prevention, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends being active at least 30 minutes daily. The American College of Sports Medicine sums it up succinctly in their recommendation: “Avoid Inactivity!”

Take advantage of the fresh start September offers by getting started or renewing your commitment to your exercise program.

Sunrise view of the city
One of the advantages to my summer exercise routine has been the beautiful sunrises.



Johns Hopkins Exercise Specialist Jay Herdson


American College of Sports Medicine