Beating bowel cancer together

Physical activity

You may not feel like being active when you're recovering from treatment, but regular physical activity can help you keep fit and improve your mood and wellbeing. There's some evidence to suggest that physical activity could improve survival in people who have had treatment that aims to cure bowel cancer.

Other benefits of keeping active include:

  • reducing anxiety and depression 
  • strengthening your muscles, joints and bones 
  • reducing the risk of other health problems, such as heart problems and type 2 diabetes 

Walking is a good way of keeping active while you’re recovering from treatment. You could start 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 reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down. You could stand up to make phone calls, move around the house during TV adverts or use the stairs instead of the lift. If you do need to sit for long periods, get up and move around every hour.

Be careful not to lift anything heavy while you're recovering from treatment, to help prevent you getting a hernia. Speak to your healthcare team or a physiotherapist if your job involves manual work.

Build up to at least 150 minutes a week of moderate activity, such as fast (brisk) walking. This is about the same as 75 minutes of vigorous activity, like running, cycling or swimming.

You can make this easier by breaking it down into shorter sessions lasting at least ten minutes each. Include activities that strengthen your muscles, like yoga, dancing or cycling, at least twice a week if you can.

Always check with your healthcare team or physiotherapist before starting any type of vigorous physical activity.

Keep motivated by inviting a friend to join you or by using a fitness tracker or mobile app. But don't worry if you can't manage this amount of exercise. You may not have the energy to do as much as you could before your diagnosis, but being as active as possible will still be good for your body.

Your GP and healthcare team can tell you about local exercise referral schemes. Some sports centres offer free or reduced price exercise sessions for people recovering from cancer.

 Download our Living well booklet

More information


Updated August 2019

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