Customizing your Exercise

  • Your cancer is unique and so is your physical level, style of exercise, and comfort level.  Exercise for cancer patients will not be a one-size-fits-all regimen.  Talk to your health care team to help you tailor your exercise to take into account:
  • Fitness Level:  Your age, stamina, and exercise history are factors that will determine the exercise level of your program.
  • Diagnosis: A person with breast cancer may have different needs from person with lymphoma. Customizing your exercise program to the type of cancer you have is important.
  • Treatment and Side Effects: The type of treatment you’re undergoing and the side effects that you experience are big factors in determining how often you can exercise, with how much intensity, and for how long.
  • Factors that affect safety:  If you have health conditions such as osteoporosis, heart disease, anemia, etc. there are considerations to keep in mind for your safety. Consult with your medical team prior to beginning any exercise regimens.

Once you discuss exercise with your health care team, you’ll have a better sense of what is recommended and safe for your unique cancer situation.  Going through cancer treatment can vary each day, so here are some tips on how you can customize your exercise on a day to day basis.

Before you exercise: 
  • Assess how you are feeling today. Evaluate how much energy you have or how well you are feeling. Use a scale of 0 to 10 with 0 being absolutely no energy and 10 being completely energized to help you choose what target exercise level you’d like to do.
  • Match an exercise or workout level to how you feel. If you’re feeling tired, try something low impact such as walking around your neighborhood or doing some stretching.  If you have more energy, increase your walk to a brisk pace for a more aerobic exercise or do some weight bearing exercises.

While you exercise: 
  • Do the talk test. To ensure you are exercising at a safe pace, test whether or not you can talk in full sentences without being out of breath.  If you find yourself out of breath, slow down your pace.
  • Aim to be energized and not drained. Exercise to the extent that it is making you feel energized not exhausted.
  • Customize your movement. When you exercise, if the movements feel comfortable than continue to do it. If the movements are making you feel uncomfortable or feel unsafe, change it or lessen the intensity of it. You can customize your movements by:
    •     Speed: Decrease or increase your pace
    •     Motion: Make the range of your movement smaller or closer to the ground
    •     Time: Make your exercise time longer or shorter
    •     Effort: Ease up on the energy that you are putting into your movements until you can breathe and talk while moving.

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