Flexibility exercises

Flexibility exercises, also known as stretches or range-of-motion (ROM) exercises, lengthen muscles and tendons. They improve or maintain the flexibility of joints and muscles.

We naturally lose joint and muscle flexibility as we get older, but cancer treatments can also have an impact. Regular stretching helps to overcome stiffness and can delay any loss of flexibility.

Some simple flexibility exercises that can be done at home are described on this page. You could also join an exercise class that focuses on stretching, such as a yoga class.

Remember to check with your health care team before beginning any exercise program. Although we have included flexibility exercises to suit most people, some may not be right for you.

 

Learn about and watch videos on:


Tips for stretching

  • Warm up your muscles first. An ideal time to stretch is during the cool-down phase.
  • Maintain good posture, and stretch slowly and steadily. Do not bounce.
  • Keep breathing normally. Do not hold your breath.
  • Know your limitations – you should feel a stretch and possibly mild discomfort, but you should not feel pain.

How much?

Try to do flexibility exercises three to four times a week. Include stretches for arm, leg and torso (core) flexibility.

In each session, you might do 1–3 sets of 4–6 different stretches.


Shoulder stretch

Muscle group: Shoulders

 
  1. Stand with your feet about hip width apart.
  2. Pull one arm across your chest. Keep your elbow just below your shoulder-line. Hold the stretch for 15–30 seconds.
  3. Repeat the stretch on the other side.

Triceps stretch

Muscle group: Triceps

 
  1. Lift one arm and bend your elbow with your forearm down your back.
  2. Using the elbow as a lever, use your other arm to gently push the arm down your back. Hold the stretch for 15–30 seconds.
  3. Repeat the stretch on the other side.

Pectoral and biceps stretch

Muscle group: Pectoral & biceps

 
  1. Stand near a wall or a pole. Raise one arm out to the side so it is parallel to the floor, and hold the wall or pole with your hand.
  2. Without moving your feet, partially turn your body away from the arm that is holding the wall/pole. Hold the stretch for 15–30 seconds.
  3. Repeat the stretch on the other side.

Quadriceps stretch

Muscle group: Quadriceps

 
  1. Stand on one leg, with a wall or chair for support if necessary.
  2. Hold your foot with your hand and pull the leg towards your buttocks by the ankle. Make sure you keep your torso straight. Hold the stretch for 15–30 seconds.
  3. Repeat the stretch on the other side.

⇓ You can use a towel to help bring your foot up towards your buttock. Another option is to do this stretch lying down on your stomach.


Calf stretch

Muscle group: Calves

 
  1. Stand facing a wall with your arms straight and hands flat against the wall. Step one of your feet straight back, placing the heel flat on the floor.
  2. Lean forward against the wall and partially bend your front leg. Keep your back leg (stretching leg) completely extended and your foot flat on the floor – move the foot backwards until you feel the stretch. Hold for 15–30 seconds.
  3. Repeat the stretch on the other side.

Hamstrings stretch

Muscle group: Hamstrings

Equipment: Step or box

  1. Stand on one leg with the other foot on the step. At first, you may want to do this near a wall in case you need to steady yourself.
  2. Lean forward from the hips, pushing your chest towards your knee. Keep your back straight. Hold the stretch for 15–30 seconds.
  3. Repeat the stretch on the other side.

For more of a stretch, place the foot of the leg being stretched flat on the step.


Lower back stretch

Muscle group: Lower back

 
  1. Sit on a chair or bench. Keep your feet on the ground and your knees partly bent.
  2. Curl your torso forward and hold the stretch for 15–30 seconds.
  3. Slowly sit back up and pause, then repeat the stretch.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on exercise for people living with cancer.


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Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059

Kobo

To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.


This information was last reviewed in April 2016
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Cancer information

Safety tips for exercising with cancer
Precautions for people starting an exercise program

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Lifestyle changes that can help keep you in good health

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