The best at-home exercises for cancer survivors

The best at-home exercises for cancer survivors

A simple, gentle strength-training regimen can help you regain mobility after cancer treatment. If you aren't able to take the free fitness classes at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, exercising at home can be a solid option as long as you consult your doctor and choose the right exercises for your needs. 

Once you have your doctor’s OK to exercise, “start low and slow,” says Joel Hardwick, ACSM EP-C, EIM2, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center. “If you don’t have a lot of physical limitations, don’t have pain during movements and feel comfortable, you can start with some gentle at-home exercises.”

Gentle at-home exercises to rebuild strength after cancer treatment

Hardwick says the best exercises to build your strength after cancer treatment include:

  • Resistance training. This includes lifting light weights and performing bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges and sit-ups. These weight-bearing exercises not only strengthen your muscles, but they also strengthen your bones and help prevent osteoporosis.

  • Mind-body practices. Tai chi, yoga, Pilates and qi gong are excellent ways to get moving when you are new to exercise or returning to exercise after treatment. They can also improve your flexibility and range of motion, which are key to regaining function after cancer treatment.

  • Activities of daily living. Carrying groceries, vacuuming, dusting, walking up and down the stairs, and unloading the dishwasher all count as physical activity.

If you exercised before cancer treatment, Hardwick says you can typically do the same movements as before, but at a lower intensity level. For example, if you used to do 20 squats, start with 10.

Exercise safety for cancer survivors

First, consult your doctor before starting an exercise program, and consider meeting with an exercise physiologist at least once or twice to learn proper form and the right exercises for your needs.

“Use all the resources at your disposal to be as informed as possible,” says Hardwick. “Your doctor or an exercise physiologist can help you determine exercises you can and cannot do. The more time you have with someone specialized and qualified, the better. We will think of things you may not think of because we have years of experience and research behind what we prescribe.”

Listen to your body and stop exercising if you have pain, numbness, tingling or other uncomfortable symptoms. Talk to your doctor right away.

When done correctly, exercise can be a crucial component of the healing process.

“Sitting too much is detrimental to your health,” says Hardwick. “Be as active as you can, as often as you can.”

See more fun, feel-good ways to get moving.


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