Exercise and cancer - Maggie's Centres

Exercise and cancer

Having cancer is likely to affect your fitness, mood and energy levels but exercise can really help before, during and after treatment.

This page will help you to learn about the benefits of exercise, how to make it part of your day and combine it with activities you already enjoy.

The benefits of exercise when you have cancer

Research has shown that people with cancer who exercise have less fatigue (tiredness), feel better in themselves and are less likely to be depressed.

There is also evidence to suggest improvements in bone, sexual, bladder and bowel health, lower rates of anaemia and treatment-related side effects.

Exercise can also mean better sleep, better general physical and mental health, less lymphoedema (swelling of a limb) and improved self image.

Finding the right exercise for you

Exercise when you have cancer should be whatever you can manage and also enjoy. 

It may seem daunting but making small changes and building up to what is right and manageable for you is the aim.

You don’t have to start running or go to the gym. Your exercise may be:

  • walking to the local shop or to the other side of the room
  • doing the housework
  • gardening
  • gentle stretching in your chair

Some gyms offer specific exercise classes for people who have been unwell. 

If you are attending a group or class, it's important to make sure the instructor is suitably qualified and is aware that you are being, or have recently been, treated for cancer.

Exercise at Maggie's

All our centres offer physical exercise classes including:

  • nordic walking
  • gym sessions
  • yoga
  • tai-chi
  • armchair exercise
  • gardening
  • walking

They are a great opportunity to meet others in similar situations and we can help you to work out which is the right activity for you. 

Find out what classes your nearest Maggie's offers – they are free and run by qualified instructors.

Don't overdo it

Exercise shouldn’t hurt or leave you breathless when you stop.

If you're unsure, speak to your doctor or specialist nurse about any exercise you could benefit from or should perhaps avoid.

What now?

Think about what exercise you might enjoy and what you can manage.

See what we offer at or come in and talk to us if you'd like help to find the right activity for you.

You can also chat to others in our online forum or around the kitchen table in our centres.

Last review: Jan 2020 | Next review: Jan 2021

Join a class at Maggie's

We have exercise classes at all our centres. Find your nearest centre to find out what's on.

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