Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

Managing side effects of chemotherapy with exercise

Managing side effects of chemotherapy with exercise image

Physical activity may help alleviate some side effects of chemotherapy and help you build up strength both during and after treatment.

Consult your doctor or nurse before starting an exercise plan, as cancer treatments can influence which exercises are safe for you.1

2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week is recommended for healthy adults aged between 18 and 64 years2

You may be able to slowly work up to this goal when you have completed treatment2,3

You may see a reduction in side effects after 6 weeks of exercise4,5,6

Exercise can be especially helpful if you are experiencing tiredness or fatigue,7,8 lymphoedema9 or oedema,10 loss of appetite11

Think about which types of exercise you enjoy the most:


Walking, dancing, swimming, cycling3,4

Walking may help alleviate constipation12


Light weightlifting, edurance training3,4

Gradual resistance exercises build up your power and endurance4


Yoga, tai chi, stretching3

Regular yoga may lessen fatigue and help you sleep13


Meditative movement therapies, yoga, qigong, tai chi14

Meditative movement therapies may increase your quality of life14,15

Keep a logbook of your physical activity

Ask your doctor about a personal healthy weekly exercise goal

Share the logbook with your doctor at your next appointment.

Download pdf Glossary


  1. Macmillan. Making sure you're safe when you're active. Accessed November 2015.
  2. World Health Organization. Physical activity and adults. Accessed November 2015.
  3. Macmillan. Different Ways of being active. Accessed November 2015.
  4. Rajarajeswaran P, Vishnupriya R. Exercise in cancer. Indian J Med Paediatr Oncol. 2009;30:61-70.
  5. Andersen C, et al. The effect of a multidimensional exercise programme on symptoms and side effects in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy–the use of semi-structured diaries. Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2006;10:247-62.
  6. Odervoll LM, et al. The effect of a physical exercise program in palliative care: A phase II study. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2006;31:421-30.
  7. Cancer.net. Navigating cancer care. Accessed November 2015.
  8. NHS Choices. Self-help tips to fight fatigue. Accessed November 2015.
  9. National Cancer Institute. Lymphedema. Accessed November 2015.
  10. National CancerInstitute. Edema. Accessed November 2015.
  11. National Cancer Institute. Appetite loss. Accessed November 2015.
  12. National Cancer Institute. Constipation. Accessed November 2015.
  13. Macmillan. Physical therapies: yoga. Accessed November 2015.
  14. Kelley GA, Kelley KS. Meditative movement therapies and health-related quality-of-life in adults: a systematic review of meta-analyses. PLoS One. 2015;10:e0129181.
  15. Chaoul A, et al. Mind-body practices in cancer care. Curr Oncol Rep. 2014;16:417g.