Staying physically active after a cancer diagnosis

There are plenty of ways you can stay physically active following a cancer diagnosis.

Physical activity can range from simple daily tasks such as climbing the stairs, housework, or gardening to more exertive activities such as running, swimming, cycling, or attending a gym regularly.

The type of physical activity you do will depend on your level of fitness and where you are at with your cancer treatment.

Benefits to staying physically active

There are lots of benefits to being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight. Evidence suggests that with some cancers it may even reduce the risk of the cancer recurring, such as with breast or colorectal cancer.

In addition, being physically active can improve general health, including reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It can also strengthen your muscles, improve your bone health, keep you more flexible, as well as helping with your body image.

How much physical activity do you need to do?

The UK Government recommends at least 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity activity a week, as well as practising some strengthening exercises on at least 2 days a week.

Moderate intense activity is activity which may make you sweat and make you aware that your heart is beating faster, but where you can still hold a conversation.

For all ages if you’ve not been physically active for a while, you will need to start slowly and build up. Taking part in any physical activity is better than none. If you’re very restricted, just standing up from your chair regularly and walking on the spot will help.

If you have any doubt about any of the activities or if you’ve just started treatment, you must consult a healthcare professional.

Physical activity apps and videos

There are plenty of resources you can use at any time to help you stay active. Below are some ideas of apps you can download to a mobile device to help you get moving.

We have also listed some videos to help you choose the type and level of activity you want to do. Each of the apps or videos has a short explanation of what each one is to guide you.

Not all the apps listed are free or designed specifically for people diagnosed with cancer – please check first which ones are most suitable for you.

This is not an exhaustive list and new apps will constantly be coming on the market or being updated.

  • NHS apps are free and can be found in the NHS apps library and are all NHS-reviewed and NHS-endorsed
  • Exi is an award-winning app and is a personalised 12-week exercise programme based on your individual health needs
  • GM Cancer Home Exercise Programme is a series of videos to help people prepare and recover from major surgery
  • Macmillan Physical Activity resources offers a free remote trial with an exercise specialist during the coronavirus pandemic
  • Active 10 app from the NHS is a great way to kick start your health
  • Changing Health app provides digital support to lead happier and healthier lives
  • 5-minute yoga app is ideal for those wanting quick and easy daily yoga workouts
  • Couch to 5k – is an app aimed at helping people start running
  • Johnson and Johnson 7-minute workout is a fast and simple way to work out
  • Silver Sneakers Go is a yoga workout for older adults
  • Yoga with Adrienne is a series of videos focusing on strength and flexibility to boost physical and mental wellbeing
  • NHS fitness studio exercise videos is a series of 24 free instructor-led videos
  • Seven app offers quick at home workouts which provide the maximum benefit in the shortest time
  • Prehab4Cancer is an exercise referral scheme designed to help people take an active role in their cancer care
  • Safefit Macmillan is a free remote service with an exercise trainer for anyone with a cancer diagnosis
  • Prehabilitation Macmillan is a series of exercises to help prepare for surgery to bring functional status to a higher level
  • Liva UK is a digital platform for lifestyle change
  • Oviva offers specialist dietary and health advice to better manage some health conditions like type 2 diabetes
  • Second Nature is a weight loss app that helps you build healthy habits
  • Wholesome World provides a wholesome approach to healthy living
  • Becca is the breast cancer support app
  • OWise is a personal cancer support app
  • Untire helps cancer patients reduce fatigue and regain energy
  • Physiotherapy exercises is a series designed for people with injuries and disabilities including wheelchair users
  • Get fit for free is an app offering fitness tips and exercise ideas

Last updated: February 2023