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Cancer treatment and physical activity

If you are being treated for cancer, physical activity can help you to:

  • increase your energy levels
  • reduce anxiety
  • reduce nausea
  • improve your mood and self-esteem
  • reach and maintain a healthy weight
  • improve the quality of your sleep

Physical activity after cancer treatment

After your treatment, physical activity can help prevent cancer from coming back. It can also reduce the risk of developing other cancers or chronic illnesses such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of:

  • developing bowel cancer
  • breast cancer after menopause
  • endometrial cancer (cancer in the lining of the womb)
  • lymphoedema

Check with your GP before you start becoming more active. Your GP can give you advice and support on becoming more active while managing your condition.

Physical activity during chemotherapy or radiation

During chemotherapy or radiation treatment, try to be as active as possible. You may need to be less active for a time and build your activity levels slowly.

Some treatments and their side effects can affect the type and amount of physical activity you can do. Be gentle with yourself and do what you can.

Severe anaemia

If you have severe anaemia, do not start exercising until your red blood cell count returns to a safe level.

Weak immune system

If you have a low white blood cell count, do not exercise in public gyms, swimming pools and other public places until your cell count returns to a safe level.

Open wounds or radiation therapy

Avoid swimming pools if you have open wounds or you are having radiation therapy. The chlorine (a chemical used to clean the pools) may irritate your skin.

Exercise videos

Exercise videos

HSE physiotherapists have created some exercise videos that you can do at home.

They are suitable for adults living with chronic conditions, including cancer.

10-minute exercise videos on YouTube:

45-minute exercise videos on YouTube:

Page last reviewed: 15 February 2023
Next review due: 15 February 2026