The consensus seems to be that the more you can keep your body moving, the better it will be for many (though not necessarily all) of your symptoms, your overall strength and stamina, and your state of mind.
Exercise may help to fight infection (primarily by increasing oxygen in the blood), reduce pain (by releasing opiate-like endorphins), strengthen joints, relieve constipation or nausea, encourage sleep, relieve stress and expose you to fresh air and sunlight.
Some people with advanced cancer will struggle to exercise, while others may overdo it. The type and amount of exercise you can manage depends on your cancer, treatment, symptoms and other factors which your doctor or relevant health professionals will need to take into account.
Even if you feel well enough to run a half-marathon, check with your doctor, physiotherapist or occupational therapist first. They will want to encourage your enthusiasm, but they will also know more about potential complications. Alternatively, they may be able to help you with symptoms that are preventing you from exercising, or with some advice on getting moving.
If you are capable of exercising but can’t get motivated try walking or cycling with a friend. Make sure they understand your limitations. You may find an exercise partner in a cancer support group.
Going at it alone may work if you are concerned about holding others back, or even a little awkward about your physical restrictions. You may simply enjoy the time alone.
If your choice of exercise is ruled out, there may be other things you can do. Swimming or cycling may replace weight-bearing activities such as jogging, walking, yoga or tai chi may be options. If you are not into exercise as such, maybe dancing or gardening will interest you.
Some general guidelines for exercising when you have advanced cancer:
Life, Hope & Reality was developed and written by Afaf Girgis, Claire Johnson, and Sylvie Lambert with funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Council NSW.Last updated 30 August 2015