- Cancer Information
- Living well
- Exercise after a cancer diagnosis (including videos)
- Getting started
- Choosing an exercise program
Choosing an exercise program
Find an exercise program that you enjoy, and that matches your current fitness level and what your doctor says is safe for you. Try to include both aerobic exercises and strength-training exercises in your weekly exercise program. This combination will ensure that you cover all aspects of your health and fitness. Adding more incidental activity into your day is also beneficial (e.g. walk to the shops, use the stairs). The important thing is to keep active.
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Home-based exercise and outdoor exercise are good ways to add physical activity into your daily routine. You can try some strength-training exercises at home, or try aerobic activities, such as walking, cycling or swimming, outside.
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. Ideally, an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist will assess your aerobic and muscular fitness and flexibility to tailor the program for your capabilities.
To find an appropriate group exercise program, ask your GP for a referral or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
Stay motivated by recording your physical activity and tracking your progress.
- Exercise diary – Record each day’s physical activity in a paper diary or List the type of activity, and how long and hard you’ve exercised.
- Online – Use free websites such as myfitnesspal.com to record your food intake and exercise sessions.
- Apps – Free smartphone apps such as Runkeeper, MyFitnessPal or STRAVA track your movement while you are exercising if you keep your phone on you, or you can record your activity later. You can download them from the App Store (Apple) or Google Play (Android).
- Gadgets – Also called wearables, devices such as those from Fitbit and Garmin are worn like a watch. They can track your activity and transfer the data to your smartphone or computer.
Mix it up
Swap exercising at home or outdoors with attending a group program. Or try new activities such as joining a sporting club. The variety will help keep you interested.
Have options for bad weather
A combination of indoor and outdoor exercise options will mean you can keep exercising even if the weather changes or it’s after dark.
Buddy up with someone
- Family and friends – Exercise with family and friends to keep each other motivated.
- Telephone support program – Your local Cancer Council may provide telephone health coaching for people who have completed cancer treatment – call 13 11 20 to find out more.
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