Keep It Moving: Exercise as the key to health during and beyond cancer treatment


Gone are the days we say “lie down and take it easy” when it comes to cancer treatment. Research findings show how regular exercise is a key part to staying healthy during and beyond cancer treatment. From making healthier food choices to quitting smoking, exercise remains one of the most important lifestyle interventions a patient can make. Cancer rehabilitation physicians can help individuals affected by cancer safely and thoughtfully engage in an appropriate level of exercise.


Developing a personalized exercise program is a critical component of cancer rehabilitation. A personalized, comprehensive, evidence-based exercise plan includes both aerobic and strengthening exercises at a moderate and/or a vigorous level. 

Some of the benefits include:

  • Decreasing fatigue
  • Improving of mood and quality of life
  • Reducing depression and anxiety
  • Increasing energy and strength
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Exercise can have positive effects on reducing the risk of developing a new cancer as well as improving cancer treatment outcomes. Exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle can also decrease the risk of a recurrence in certain cancer types. There is a growing body of knowledge through research supporting the health benefits of exercise as part of both cancer prevention and cancer treatment.


Regularly engaging in aerobic and resistance exercise is a key component of the cancer journey. A cancer rehabilitation physician has the expertise to help establish a safe, evidence-informed exercise program during and after cancer treatment, an “exercise prescription.”

For cancer prevention, we look to “Exercise as Medicine” guidelines from The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM):

  • All adults aged 18–65 years old should participate in moderate intensity, aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes, five days per week, or vigorous intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes, three days per week.
  • Strengthening exercises that can be performed with weights, resistance bands or your body weight should be included into your exercise routine two times a week. 

Every patient is different and safely engaging in physical activity and exercise is important. If you have a personal history of cancer or other health conditions, you should first be evaluated by your health care provider to establish a fitness and functional base line before starting an exercise program. Wherever you are in your cancer journey, exercise should be encouraged and can be personalized to meet your health needs.

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By Dr. Carolina Gutierrez, MD

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