Aerobic exercise uses large muscle groups and causes your heart rate to rise during the activity. It may delay the onset of side effects and reduce their severity, maintain mood and improve energy levels.
Exercise at a level you are comfortable with, but try to vary how long (duration) and how hard (intensity) you exercise. See more information on current recommendations for aerobic-based exercise.
What is exercise intensity?
How hard your body is working during physical activity, particularly aerobic exercise, is known as exercise intensity. It’s usually described as low, moderate or vigorous. A simple way to work out the intensity is the talk test.
- Low intensity exercise – Can talk and sing. Examples include gentle walking and light gardening.
- Moderate intensity exercise – Heart will beat faster, you’ll breathe harder than normal and you’ll be sweating. You’ll be able to have a slower than normal conversation. Examples include brisk walking, water aerobics, dancing, tennis (doubles), cycling and swimming.
- Vigorous intensity exercise – You’ll be sweating, puffing and your heart will be beating rapidly. You won’t be able to talk without pausing. Examples include aerobics/cardio classes, jogging, tennis (singles), and organised sports such as football, soccer or netball.
A/Prof Prue Cormie, Chair, COSA Exercise and Cancer Group, and Principal Research Fellow – Exercise Oncology, Australian Catholic University, NSW; Rebecca Cesnik, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, ACT; Dr Nicolas Hart, Senior Research Fellow, Exercise Medicine Research Institute, Edith Cowan University, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Cancer Council WA; Stephanie Lamb, Life Now Project Officer, Cancer Council WA; John Odd, Consumer; Sharni Quinn, Clinical Lead Physiotherapist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Jane Turner, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Life after cancer treatment
Programs and support for people who have finished treatment
ENRICH – a free healthy lifestyle program
A face-to-face exercise and nutrition program for cancer survivors