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By Katie Johnson, MSN, AGPCNP-BC

Fatigue is one of the most common complaints among cancer patients. It can effect patients’ quality of life and interfere with their daily activities, while being difficult to measure and hard to treat. Several things contribute to fatigue in cancer patients, including treatment and the disease itself. Fortunately, evidence shows that regular exercise and daily physical activity can improve patient fatigue.

Patients are encouraged to include some form of exercise in their overall treatment plan. Depending on their health status, a patient may consider the following for some common issues:

  • Having difficulty standing or have poor balance? Try performing leg lifts (up and down then side to side) while sitting in a chair. Depending on your ability, you could also consider performing these exercises standing on one foot for 10 seconds before switching feet. It is encouraged to use a walker or other supportive device to help with balance and prevent fall.
  • Are you struggling with endurance? Try marching in place between TV commercial breaks.
  • Did you perform regular exercise prior to your diagnosis or treatment? Try going for a walk or easy jog outside.
  • Do you have shortness of breath or difficulty breathing? Performing regular breathing exercises can improve air movement in and out of the lungs.
  • Have poor posture and flexibility? Performing easy stretches at home can help increase flexibility. It can also help prevent tight muscles after prolonged periods of inactivity.

Potential benefits of regular exercise include:

  • Prevent muscle and bone density loss
  • Improve sleep
  • Prevent injury
  • Improve balance and strength
  • Reduce risk of depression and anxiety
  • Improve your overall quality of life
  • Decrease risk of mortality

Safety is important when considering the exercise you prefer. Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program. If appropriate, you may consider a referral to physical therapy or occupational therapist for evaluation and recommendations.

Lastly, remember that it will take time to recover after cancer related treatment. It is important that you listen to your body and do not over exert yourself. It can take weeks, months, or even years to get back to your baseline level of health.


Doctor-Approved Patient Information from ASCO. (2020, May 15). Exercise During Cancer Treatment. Cancer.Net.

Kupier, PhD., B. (2021, July 15). Cancer-Related Fatigue: What People With Cancer and Their Loved Ones Should Know. Cancer.Net.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. (2021, January 29). Managing Cancer-Related Fatigue with Exercise.