Man on Elliptical

The health benefits of aerobic and strength exercises are well known. Slightly less known, however, is the potential benefits of exercise for cancer patients before, during, and after chemotherapy treatment. Light exercises can often reduce symptoms associated with cancer treatment.

One particular type of cancer that exercise may particularly benefit is mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the linings of internal organs, especially the lungs. Light exercising during treatment can greatly improve mesothelioma prognosis by maintaining and improving lung capacity and oxygen flow throughout the body. Mesothelioma is a direct result of exposure to asbestos, and typically is diagnosed in men.

While treatment for mesothelioma may include light cardiovascular exercises, patients with other types of cancer may also benefit from treatment. The following are a few of the symptoms cancer patients typically face, and the associated benefit that could be potentially gained through exercise. It is important to note that all exercises should be done under the supervision of a physician.


Many cancer patients suffer from fatigue at some point during their treatment. A cancer patient's number one problem is fatigue which is a common symptom during therapy. Cardiovascular exercise improves circulation which improves oxygen levels and helps remove toxins form the body. Removing toxins and improving oxygen flow will both help to decrease symptoms of fatigue. By reducing the symptoms of fatigue in cancer patients, a better quality of life and improved recovery time may be achieved.

Aerobic Capacity

Patients suffering from mesothelioma often have diminished lung capacity as part of the disease process. Cancer patients who have mesothelioma should be encouraged to exercise as much as possible to improve capacity. Regaining and improving aerobic capacity allows for proper oxygen flow, improves elimination of toxins, improves overall circulation, enhances quality of life, and may increase life expectancy.

Body weight

Many cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy often struggle with maintaining weight. Exercising can help to maintain some body mass and help to improve muscle tone and strength during treatment. Improved body mass often helps to speed recovery and provides strength during treatments.


Nausea is another symptom that is commonly associated with chemotherapy treatment. Exercise helps to stimulate appetite and support digestive function. Controlling nausea during cancer treatment will help patients to receive the nutrients they need to heal and the strength needed for daily function.

Bone Density

Light to moderate weight training will also help to strengthen bones. If the cancer has metastasized to the bone, replacing lost bone and improving bone density is an essential part of the healing process. The better the bone density, the lower the risk of bone disease and potential for breaks.


Anyone facing a serious illness, especially cancer, may be prone to depression. Exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression by increasing mood, releasing endorphins, and improving oxygen flow in the body. Treating and dealing with the symptoms of depression will vastly improve both the physical and the mental outlook for patients undergoing therapy.

Starting an Exercise Routine

Women joggingExercise for cancer patients should be customized to their particular condition and situation. Patients should always start small and build over time, and always exercise under the care of a physician. Many cancer patients, even those currently undergoing chemotherapy, start with short walks, mild yoga, or simple range of motion exercises. Once a routine is developed, more and more exercises may be gradually added in. The key is for patients to listen to their bodies to not over exert themselves to the point of stressing their health. It is better to start slower and work up to higher levels of exercise as the patient progresses.

Many patients choose to start their exercise routine with walking. Walking is a great low-impact exercise that virtually anyone can start. Starting an effective walking program can be done in 3 easy steps:

  1. Select the time to walk. It can be early in the morning or later in the evening. Aim to start at 15 to 30 minutes per walking session 3 to 5 times per week.
  2. Determine where the location to walk. Some choose to simply walk in their neighborhood while others choose to walk in a scenic park or somewhere that is relaxing to them.
  3. Decide whether to walk alone or with someone else. Some prefer the solitude of a walk alone while others may choose to walk with a partner. Walking with a partner will often bring comfort and motivation to keep going.

Maintaining Exercise

Once cancer is in remission, it is advised that patients stick to an exercise regimen for the lone term. Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of aerobic and strength training for healthy individuals. This may play a key part in helping cancer patient to remain in remission and avoid a relapse with the disease.