AICR's Guidelines for Cancer Survivors

Physical Activity

For cancer survivors, how much you exercise depends upon your condition. Try excercising at a releaxed pace for 10-15 minutes, and then gradually buidling up more minutes. The physical activity recommendation from the AICR 2007 expert report states, “Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.”

Understanding the Physical Activity-Cancer Connection

Physical activity is an essential part of good health. People who are active over a long period of time are at lower risk for many types of cancer. For cancer survivors, studies suggest that exercise is beneficial in improving quality of life and long-term prospects for survival.

Quality of life benefits:

  • Improves fitness and balance
  • Enhances self-esteem
  • May reduce fatigue
  • Improves mood
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Enhances long-term prospects for survival and reduces risk for cancer recurrence
  • Improves functioning of the immune system
  • Reduces stress
  • Helps to achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • Decreases percentage of body fat

Physical Activity Tips

Exercise guidelines for each person vary depending on your medical condition and past fitness level. Check with your doctor about advice on creating an individualized exercise program.

Some factors you might include when determining your physical activity plan:

  1. Think moderate exercise. You don’t need to train for a marathon.
  2. For survivors, how much you exercise depends upon your condition. Try exercising at a relaxed pace for 10-15 minute, and then gradually increase length and intensity. Many health experts recommend exercising every day for 60 minutes. But do as much as you can without straining. Remember that any activity is better than none.
  3. Brisk walking is an easy way to begin for many. All you need are comfortable shoes and a safe environment.
  4. Choose activities you enjoy. Is there a sport or active hobby you did in the past, like dancing, gardening or playing tennis? If you enjoy it, you will be more likely to keep doing it.
  5. Incorporate exercise into your daily activities. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away, or doing errands by bicycle instead of by car.
  6. Work out in water. Water is gentle on your joints, and you can't fall!
  7. Consider learning Tai Chi, Qi Gong or yoga. These forms of exercise from Asia stimulate the mind/body connection. The movements can be relaxing and rewarding, both physically and mentally.
  8. Have some fun with the people you care about most. With friends and family, fly a kite, throw a Frisbee, or play softball.
  9. Choose a place that engages your mind and spirit. A pleasant environment, like a path through woods, will motivate you and improve your psychological health.
  10. Finally - it doesn’t matter what activities you choose, what matters most is that you choose to be active.


ICON: Physical Activity

Fatigue is a common complaint of cancer survivors and you might think physical activity would make it worse. But studies show that moderate exercise may reduce fatigue while relaxation may actually increase it.

Moving More for Cancer PreventionFor more tips and information read our brochure Moving More for Cancer Prevention that suggests ways to make more challenging exercise a part of your lifestyle. You can read the full text of the brochure online.