You may not feel like exercising when you’re having treatment but regular physical activity can help you stay at a healthy body weight and help you keep fit. It can also give you a sense of purpose. More evidence is needed about how helpful exercise may be for reducing side effects or improving survival in people recovering from bowel cancer treatment. But some studies have shown that it can improve fitness, mental wellbeing and quality of life. There’s also some evidence of improved survival in people who are more physically active after curative bowel cancer treatment.
Start off gently and, when you’re ready, try to build up the amount of activity you do each day. You might start off with a walk around the house and then move on to a short walk outside. As you get your strength and energy back, you’ll be able to do more. Try to build up to 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise, such as fast (brisk) walking, at least five days a week. A pedometer can be helpful for setting daily step count targets, which you can gradually increase as your fitness improves.
Be careful not to lift anything heavy while you’re recovering from treatment. Speak to a physiotherapist if your job involves manual work. They can also give you advice on when you can start exercising and what exercises would be best for you. You might like to try gentle forms of pilates, yoga or tai chi, which can help build strength in your stomach area (abdomen).
Our booklet, Your diet and lifestyle: living with and beyond bowel cancer, includes a information on physical activity after bowel cancer.
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy provides a list of physiotherapists.
Macmillan Cancer Support has information on keeping active.
Updated August 2018. Due for review March 2019.