Getting started

After a cancer diagnosis, some people decide to make big changes to their lifestyle. Others take a more gradual approach. You will find the way forward that is right for you.

Before taking part in any exercise program, either during or soon after your treatment, it is important to talk with your oncologist or general practitioner (GP) about any precautions you should take.

If it has been a while since you have been active or your fitness level is low, start slowly and build up gradually. For example, you might start by doing 5–10 minutes of walking three days per week, and add a bit more every week until you have worked your way up to 30 minutes of walking five days per week.

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Exercise equipment

Here are some suggestions for equipment that will help you exercise more safely:

  • Shoes – You don’t need expensive equipment or special clothing to exercise, but appropriate shoes are vital. A podiatrist or reputable shoe shop can recommend shoes that will help you avoid injury.
  • Clothing – Wear loose, comfortable clothes, such as shorts and a T-shirt, when you are exercising.
  • Equipment – For some strength-training exercises, you may want to have your own hand weights or exercise bands. Other equipment, such as heart rate monitors and home-gym systems, can be useful but are not necessary. 
  • Sun protection – If you are exercising outside, remember to be SunSmart: use sun-protective clothing, SPF 30+ sunscreen, and a broad-brimmed hat. Seek shade, and wear sunglasses.
  • Helmets – By law, cyclists also need to wear an approved safety helmet.

Exercise professionals

Starting an exercise program can feel overwhelming. You may have lots of questions. It is important to realise that personal trainers and exercise scientists are trained to work with people who do not have any major health issues. People affected by cancer should see an exercise physiologist or a physiotherapist.

Exercise physiologists

Also called Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs), these allied health professionals have completed at least a four-year university degree. They concentrate on using exercise as medicine to help with injury and chronic disease management, so they are the most appropriate exercise professionals to advise people affected by cancer.


These are allied health professionals who have completed at least a four-year university degree. They often concentrate on preventing and treating injuries using a variety of treatment methods, including exercise, massage, and joint manipulation. They can also advise people affected by cancer.

Medicare or your private health fund may provide limited cover for visits to an exercise physiologist or a physiotherapist. Ask your GP for a referral to an exercise professional, or visit the website of Exercise & Sports Science Australia.

Your exercise physiologist can work with you and your doctor to develop an exercise program tailored for you. Many structured exercise programs offered at venues such as gyms will ask you for a medical clearance before starting.

Choosing an exercise program

Physical activity need not be costly or inconvenient. The exercise program that is right for you will depend on your current fitness level, what you want to do, and what your doctor says is safe for you. If you enjoy an activity, you are more likely to stick with it. To stay motivated, you could ask a friend or family member to join you.

Exercise at home and outdoors

Home-based exercise and outdoor exercise are both excellent ways to include physical activity in your daily routine. You can try aerobic activities such as walking, cycling or swimming, along with some strength-training exercises. If you haven’t exercised much before or are unsure about what you can safely do, talk to your GP about a referral to an exercise professional.

Attend a group exercise program

Many gyms and fitness centres run group exercise programs. When joining, let your gym know that you have cancer, and ask if they have someone who can help to ensure that the exercise program is right for you.

An exercise professional should conduct an initial consultation and functional assessment so that the group exercise program is tailored for your abilities and condition. Ideally, this person will be an exercise physiologist accredited with Exercise & Sports Science Australia. You can search for an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP) by name, location or specialty at To find an appropriate group exercise program, ask your GP for a referral or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

Mix it up

You might choose a mix of exercising at home or outdoors and attending a group program. The structure and safety of a supervised program can be a great place to start, while your own activities can keep things interesting. Another option is to join a sporting club. Belonging to a group provides a social outlet as well as physical benefits, and often helps with motivation.

Keep track

Some people are motivated by recording their physical activity and tracking their progress. There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Exercise diary – Record every day’s physical activity in a paper diary or calendar. List the activity type, intensity and duration.
  • Online – Websites such as allow you to record your food intake and exercise sessions for free.
  • Apps – Free smartphone apps such as Runkeeper or MyFitnessPal track your movement if you keep your phone on you while you are exercising, or you can record your activity later.
  • Gadgets – Also called wearables, devices such as those from Fitbit and Jawbone are worn like a watch. They can track your activity and transfer the data to your smartphone or computer.
  • Telephone support program – Your local Cancer Council may provide information on telephone health coaching for people who have completed cancer treatment – call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to find out more.

Eating well

Eating well means giving your body the food it needs to keep working properly. Cancer and its treatment place extra demands on your body, so eating well is more important than ever.

There is no special eating plan that can cure cancer and, in most cases, there are no special foods or food groups to eat or avoid if you have cancer. For most people living with cancer, the best approach is to eat a wide variety of foods from each of the food groups every day. It is also important to stay hydrated during and after exercise. Have a water bottle nearby when you are exercising and take regular small sips.

For more on this, see Nutrition and cancer.

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

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

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.

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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”.
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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.

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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
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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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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ENRICH – a free healthy lifestyle program
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Cancer information

Nutrition and cancer
How to eat well during and after cancer treatment

Staying healthy after treatment
Lifestyle changes that can help keep you in good health

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