Should You Exercise Regularly When Undergoing Chemotherapy?

Those with cancer often are treated with chemotherapy. While this is a widely known method of managing cancer, it is accompanied by many problems of its own.

Chemotherapy uses chemicals to kill cancer cells (via Mayo Clinic). It can cure a patient's cancer by destroying it, reduce the symptoms it causes, or prepare the body for other treatments by shrinking the cancer and making it more manageable. Unfortunately, as the chemicals have a devastating effect on the cancer, they can likewise affect the rest of the body. The potential side effects of chemotherapy are many, including bleeding, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, constipation, hair loss, diarrhea, and others.

These side effects generally subside after the chemotherapy treatment ceases, but in some cases, they can continue for much longer, according to Healthline. A course of chemotherapy can take three to six months to complete, and it can be a long road for patients to manage these many side effects daily. The toll of the side effects will vary, but in general, patients often feel tired or ill during treatment, according to WebMD. This continued fatigue and ailment can lead to another problem: some patients may not want to exercise.

Exercise during chemotherapy

According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, fatigue is the most frequent side effect of cancer treatment. When you are fatigued, you may not want to do anything but rest. This type of fatigue isn't resolved with resting, though. Therefore, not only would the fatigue persist, but it would also mean your daily activity could be severely limited, including exercise.

In general, exercise is good for you (via MedlinePlus). It has many benefits ranging from bone health to mood improvement. As a cancer patient, though the fatigue may make it feel otherwise, exercise is just as necessary, according to the American Cancer Society.

Inactivity during this time can lead to muscle weakness, decreased range of motion, and loss of body function. In contrast, staying as active as possible and engaging in light exercise during chemotherapy can provide many benefits, including increased energy levels, reports Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Exercise has been shown to help improve quality of life in those treated with chemotherapy (per American Cancer Society). This improvement comes from its positive impact on sleep quality, mental health, immune function, brain function, strength, and a reduction in chemo side effects. In fact, it may even reduce your risk of developing new cancers in the future.

While exercise is considered safe for most cancer patients, speaking with a healthcare professional is recommended to determine what exercise is best for you. Although it may be difficult, do what you can to stay active during chemotherapy, and you'll likely notice many benefits.