Can exercise help me recover from cancer?

Jane mugshot for JQAI am in my sev­en­ties and have recently had an oper­a­tion for can­cer of the womb. Currently I am hav­ing radio­ther­apy and although I am not feel­ing unwell, I feel some kind of exer­cise routine might help me to gain strength once the radio­ther­apy has fin­ished. Can you advise?

You are right to think that exer­cise can help speed your recov­ery. You can start imme­di­ately with a gentle and gradu­ally increas­ing walk­ing routine. Aim to walk every day for as long as you can man­age – even if that’s just a few minutes at a time. See if you can do two or three short walks a day, so that the total amount starts to add up. As you get stronger, you can keep going for a little longer.

It’s really help­ful to keep a simple record of your walk times. That way you can see your pro­gress and set your next week’s goals by adding on a couple of minutes. When you get to 30 minutes daily with no prob­lem, you will know you are well on the road to recov­ery – but don’t sop there, aim for an hour a day of brisk walk­ing.

An import­ant cau­tion, how­ever. Don’t be too hard on your­self if you don’t meet your tar­gets every day. Cancer, notori­ously, makes people feel very up and down from one day to the next. Even if (hope­fully) you are clear of the can­cer, your body will still be recov­er­ing from the onslaught of sur­gery, anaes­thetic and radio­ther­apy, all of which can leave you feel­ing exhausted for months after­wards.

On the bad days set aside your tar­get, and just do a small, gentle walk instead – out­doors, if pos­sible. One of the best effects of out­door walk­ing is that it helps lift our mood. This alone is enough to make us feel more ener­getic.

Physically the walk­ing will help to clear remain­ing traces of anaes­thetic from your body, and by strength­en­ing your heart muscle and lungs, will improve your oxy­gen effi­ciency. This will boost your energy levels and over­all fit­ness – as well as speed­ing the heal­ing of wounds from your sur­gery.

Once you have fin­ished the radio­ther­apy, and after check­ing with your GP, con­sider join­ing a gen­eral com­munity exer­cise class for seni­ors – this might be a cir­cuit class, tai chi or even some­thing like line dan­cing. All these kinds of activ­ity – provided they are run by a suit­ably qual­i­fied instructor – will help you regain lost muscle strength and bal­ance.

Finally you should def­in­itely work on strength­en­ing your abdom­inal and pel­vic floor muscles, as these have prob­ably been ser­i­ously weakened by the oper­a­tion. Start now with pel­vic floor exer­cises, in which you suck up your pel­vic floor and hold the con­trac­tion, mak­ing sure you are still breath­ing nor­mally, for up to a minute before let­ting go. The muscle pull is the same as try­ing to stop your­self from going to the loo, and you can prac­tice this move­ment stand­ing, sit­ting or lying down, as many times a day as you remem­ber.

Increase Text Size Increase Text Size

Add your thoughts