Keep Moving: Benefits of Exercise

Michelle Larson, PT, CLT-LANA, Physical Therapy
Michelle Larson, Physical Therapy and Certified Lymphedema Therapist

Whether you have been recently diagnosed with cancer, are in the middle of treatment or have completed treatment, it is important to get exercise. Don’t be afraid to move! Here are some of the benefits from exercise:

More research is emerging about the effect of exercise on malignant tumors. The effects being studied may show exercise helps combat growth of cancer cells in different ways.1

  • Movement keeps you from atrophying or losing muscle mass and it helps build bone mass.
  • Studies show there is a decreased incidence of lymphedema in patients who exercise.2
  • Exercise helps you lose weight by increasing metabolism. The more muscle mass you create with your workout, the more calories you burn.
  • Cancer patients in a recent study report that exercise led to decreased nausea, vomiting and depression.3
  • Some studies have shown an increased survival rate with some cancers.4
  • Although it may seem contradictory, physical activity can actually reduce fatigue. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network reports that cancer patients who exercised regularly are less tired, less depressed and sleep better than patients who don’t exercise.5
  • And if those aren’t enough reasons, consider this…it feels good to exercise! Exercise releases endorphins which makes you feel better.

If you have not exercised in a while or have concerns about physical activity during your treatment, ask your doctor for a physical therapy referral. If you’re ready to get started, try to incorporate these 3 components into your exercise routine:

  • Limit inactivity
  • Aim to do physical activity most days of the week
  • Include muscle strengthening at least 2 days a week

Here are some suggestions to help you get moving.

Aerobics: Start walking, it’s a great way to increase your heart rate for a sustained period of time.

Strengthening: Lifting weights (start with soup cans!), squats and heel raises will increase your muscle strength.

Stretching: Try a pectoral stretch in a doorway, then move on to rowing movements. This is the key to increasing flexibility, improving posture and alleviating some pain.

Your exercise routine is something that you can control. Take charge of your physical activity and feel better.

Michelle Larson, MPT, CLT-LANA, CET-ACSM is a Physical Therapist and Certified Lymphedema Therapist. She can be reached at 530-582-6450.

Read more about Michelle Larson, PT, CLT-LANA.


  1. Davies, Batehup & Thomas 2001; Jones et al 2013; Pederson Christiansen & Hojman 2015 and 2016; Vina et al, 2009, Shammas 2001
  2. Weight Lifting in Women with Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema, JAMA, Schmidt et al, 2010
  3. Newton and Galvao, 2008
  4. Rock et al., 2012, Holmes, Chen Feskanich, Kroenke& Colditz, 205;  Meyerhardt, et al, 2006, Irwin et al 2008; Giovannucci, Liu, Leitzman, Stampfer & Willett, 2005
  5. Comparison of Pharmaceutical, Psychological and Exercise treatments for Cancer-Related Fatigue, JAMA Oncol. Published online March 2, 2017