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Physical Activity

Physical activity introduction video

The current guidance of physical activity levels for all adults is 150 minutes a week. It is advised this is achieved by doing 30 minutes of activity a day for 5 days a week. The activity is to be of moderate pace such as walking. The guidance now includes also doing balance and strengthening activity at least twice a week. This level of activity is helpful for people even during cancer treatment. However everyone is different and exercise needs to be tailored to you, taking into account your overall fitness, diagnosis, and other factors that could affect safety.

  • Being active before, during and after treatment for cancer is safe and is beneficial by helping with the following:
  • Reducing fatigue

  • Managing side effects of treatment

  • Healthy heart function

  • Reducing anxiety and depression

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

  • Strengthening muscles & improving bone health

  • Improving flexibility & balance

  • Increasing confidence and self esteem

  • Reducing the risk of cancer reoccurrence

  • Improving overall quality of life 

Please view our video below which explains the benefits of physical activity.

Physical activity doesn’t always mean ‘exercise’

The type of activity or ‘exercise’ you do may depend on what stage you are at with cancer treatment. It may also depend on what type of activity you enjoy doing. Support is available to adapt and modify activity before, during and after cancer treatment and will be personalised and meaningful to you. We are seeing the benefits of physical activity in cancer patients in their ability to withstand treatment and its side effects, recover easier after treatment and surgery.

These are some of the everyday activities that can be done as part of an active lifestyle:

  • Housework (vacuuming)
  • Gardening
  • Walking to the shops
  • Walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift
  • Carrying shopping bags

Energetic activities such as Dancing, Running, Cycling and Digging the garden.

Staying active at home is easily achieved, download our booklet here with easy to understand guidance. 

Benefits of exercise for those living with and beyond cancer

The areas of fitness that should be targeted when being active and exercising are: Aerobic, Balance, Flexibility and strenghth. Examples below are some activities you can do to make a difference and essentially affect how you body copes with the forthcoming cancer treatment.

Use the slider to find out more information on each one.

  • Aerobic

    people doing aerobic exercise

    Increasing your heart rate and making you feel out of breath (within limits – we want you to still be able to speak a sentence).

    Activities such as vacuuming, walking briskly, gardening, running and jogging, cycling and swimming, group exercise, other sport as suitable. 

  • Balance

    someone cycling

    Keeping you steady, improving reactions, suitable activities are aerobics, badminton, stairs, cycling, dance, DIY, football, Pilates, water aerobics, yoga and bowling.

  • Flexibility

    two people doing yoga

    Improving ability to bend and move more easily, improving joint function. These activities are badminton, DIY, yoga, vacuuming, Pilates, mowing the lawn, seated chair exercises.

  • Strengthening

    image of older women flexing biceps

    Improving muscle strength and muscle mass activites include carrying shopping bags, body weights, hand weights, tins of food, machines, resistance bands.

    Some adaptations needed for certain conditions for example, bone cancer and arthritic conditions

The following Macmillan video introduces you to physical activity and gentle exercise you can do at home. There is information about some of the things you may need to consider before you start to do more activity. The videos demonstrate 3 different levels; lighter / easier, intermediate and advanced so you can decide the level you work to. This link takes you to the exercise videos; warm up, cardio, strength & endurance, cool down.

Additional information

Links with further information on these topics which will open in a new window and pdf format, if you would like any more information please contact your Clinical Nurse Specialist.

Physical activity and cancer

Becoming more active

Being active at home

Phyiscal activity during chemotherapy and radiotherapy

Macmillan Move More Exercise videos

Macmillan Safefit

Move more a guide to becoming more active

The undefeatable link below can provide support to become more physically active when you’re managing a long term health condition, being active is about finding what works for you.


An activity diary or using your smart phone to track steps or an activity tracker is a good way to monitor what you are doing. Please click here to download an activity chart if you do not have an activity tracker.

If you have have a question for the First Steps team please submit it on the form below

Please note, if your question needs an urgent response you should contact your clinical team directly.


Question for First Steps Team

The First Steps team aim to respond to your question within a few days. Please bear in mind the information team's working days are Monday to Friday. Any questions submitted may be used anonymously as part of the frequently asked question section of the First Steps website.