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Exercise and cancer: new study. What do YOU do?

I was web wandering for advice as to whether I should start using my exercise bike and cross trainer properly again as I'm heading into my 6th chemo cycle and really feeling the need to shape up a bit now the op is well past. I found this mayo clinic study which has looked for first time at the link (not for OC but the principles of gentle exercise should hold up...) published a few days ago mayoclinic.org/news2012-rst...

What do others do and when? How soon after op should we get motivated to move more again? Does anyone do their abdominal exercises religiously, for example - there have been indications that advice varies widely...interested to hear.

21 Replies

Dear Sue,

I'm sure exercise helps general well-being and have read the Macmillan report that recommends 3 x 1/2 hour workouts each week to prolong remission.

I was told to walk every day when I got out of hospital and to increase the time by 5 minutes each day so by the time I was 4 weeks post-op I was walking at least 2 hours a day but I was luckier than you guys in that the weather was fab in the summer of 2011.

I also cycle every day, swim twice a week and sail. Aerobic exercise is good - as is the deep-breathing associated with yoga. I think if I were recommending an exercise regime I'd be looking at something where you can breath in great chunks of curative fresh air - so I'd probably only resort to the cross-trainer and exercise bike on the days I couldn't exercise outside.

By the way I'm naturally a bit of a couch potato but was inspired by my sister who has survived 3 different sorts of aggressive cancers over the last 35 years and she looks fantastic for her programme of healthy eating and regular exercise.

Good luck with yours! xxx Annie


Oh dear that's lots... ;(


Hi Sue

I think Annie is right about getting outdoors although I do tend to be put off by murky, cold, wet weather. My local leisure centre runs a Fit and Active programme for the over 50s. I know you're too young and I'm sure you think it sounds grim but they really are fit and active. I usually go twice a week. There's always an exercise class but this changes avery 6 or 8 weeks. At the minute I do circuits one day and Zumba the other. Afterwards we can use the pool and spa so usually swim once a week. I also have a step at home and do a workout using that once a week.

I have found that I need to go a bit easy on the abdominals or I would have pain which isn't just the normal muscle pain you would get after working out. I think there's a bit of scarring in there. The pains gave me a real fright last summer because I thought it was the return of the Beast.

My other activity also has a rather grey image, unfortunately.. indoor bowls. Not exactly aerobic but great fun and you're actually on the move a lot and bending all the time. I was there last night and won the women's singles in my club competitions!!

Whatever you do, make sure it's something you enjoy and listen to your body so you don't overdo things.

And since the worst thing is sitting on your bum I'm going to stir myself now and get my day started. You have a good one.


Linda xx


Hi Sue,

Exercise is obviously good for everyone, but if I was you I'd check with your oncology team first, I don't know whether you have had a T.A.H or not but if you have there will be a weakness there, I have since developed an incisional hernia the trouble is...it is the inside what you can't see is weak, I unfortunately can't swim, I would think swimming would be good my surgeon adviced walking is good, I don't know about any other type of exercise, it is still early days for you, for instance I know Babs wears her magic pants, but I was adviced against this by my surgeon (this advice was given 15months after my operation) so like I said there is no harm to ask their advice first. Love x G x :-/ ;-)


The reply link won't work for some reason...

Yep Gwyn, they scooped me out like a watermelon. Hence apprehension. I've also avoided exercise for ever, loathe gyms and classes, and have a fat dog. One problem is we have to drive to anywhere you can have a decent walk unless you want a stroll onto the m4, pretty much. Makes it all such hassle its a great excuse not to. Hence the bike and stuff which, ironically, I quite enjoy! I know it's a cop out! See, I would have thought swimming too, how odd. Maybe I should check.

Still interesting how others have got healthy after. One thing is for sure - it's time to kick some of the bad habits.


Hey Sue, I'm a lady after your own heart - have had an aversion to sport all my life. Think it was something to do with being made to run through a communal shower at school and worrying the sports teacher was enjoying the supervision just a bit too much. Oh dear I've just posted elsewhere about my geography teacher who was also a lecherous old sob. I have an aversion to both geography and sport. I was seriously damaged by my school days which were more akin to Decline and Fall than Mallory Towers.

But I digress. Cycling is great and your dog will benefit from a run too. I was brought up in Ealing and learnt to ride horses along the canals in Southall. Perhaps they're no longer there. If you could take to hanging out of a sailing boat you'd do well to explore opportunities in the lakes and reservoirs just by you along the M4. It's a great amphibious sport and will get you out and about gulping in lots of fresh air and an adrenaline fix into the bargain. I'm off skiing in March. That's another outdoor activity with plenty of wonderful fresh air and more adrenaline. You can see from this whilst I'm not sporty I am an incurable adrenaline junky.

Hope you manage to find some sort of active outdoor pursuit you can enjoy.

xx Annie


God no!!!! Sounds horrendous. Am so NOT sporty and I think cycling is dangerous on the road anyway - no about to solemnly transport a bl##dy bike somewhere I can ride safely. Think I will stick to static bike t least I can watch TV;-)


Someone on the site has an exercise bike that has a GPS/Google Maps type thing and they can set where they want to ride, then view the route in 3D. That sounds amazing to me and suits us non-sporty indoor types! xxx



Be very careful after abdominal surgery as you could end up with a hernia. Your abs have been cut vertically and need time to knit back together!

Walking is absolutely the best thing in the early days, as it gently stretches and massages all the muscles and ligaments around the pelvis.

Research into exercise after breast cancer has suggested that it MIGHT delay recurrence. I don't know of any research re OvCa + exercise but I did read somewhere that being overweight MIGHT be a predictive factor for relapse of OvCa.

Hope this helps!


aaaah! We'll all be on diets after that idea. lol xxx



I was also told to walk at first. I asked my GP about swimming, she said the great thing about swimming is its as all round exercise and you can't overdo it, because if you do you'll sink! Talk about a GP with a sense of humour! She said to be careful over gym equipment, as it is very easy to do too much without noticing, the best way is to build up slowly. I waited 3 months before starting swimming, then started at 200m. (November last year) by June I had got up to swimming a mile....then the beast pounced so I had to go back to small walks.....very small ones at that! Hoping to get going again early February. Many people say you need to do weight bearing exersise for your bones, so once my strength is improved I shall do other things as well



There is some good evidence that exercise reduces the risk of bowel cancer recurrence, and the "prescription" in terms of "required" exercise was: a 30 minute walk, 5 times per week. Given the difficulty many of us have with complex and time consuming regimens, I think this prescription is something achievable to aim for, with an evidence base behind it.


A dog seems ideal for the 30 minute walk 5 times a week - though of course it would be 7 days a week, and hopefully for the dog's sake a longer walk most days.




I had TAH and was told not to do any exercise for 6months, only pelvic floor

and holding in the tummy muscles for a few seconds. Even that was really

difficult for quite a few months as it gave me a lot of pain.

It is now 12months since my op and the only exercise I do is walking as I too

am not an exercise fan.

Maybe you could run around the house with the hoover everyday - that is

said to be good exercise!! or maybe not.

Good luck with what ever you find to do.

Angie xx


Hi there Sue ,

Today I finished my exercise class which was a 12 week course this was done through my GP after having the chemo ...I really did enjoy it very much .I will carry on after Christmas but it will be an early evening one as going back to my school lunchtime job in the new year full time .

I am also now brisk walking when I can ..did 40 minutes Monday morning before breakfast and have bought some running shoes today ..so commited now .... feel better for it too ..

Jan xx


Overall sounds like I'm worrying too early then. Ill give the bike and criss training a rest and just try some walking for now. I will not be skiing, or doing anything remotely exciting though! Thanks for all the input





Hi Sue, I hope you're not yet training for old biddie-dom, so no cross-training yet!

Seriously, though, exercise is great for recovery and prevention of cancer. There was a Macmillan study a few years ago called 'Get Active, Feel Good' which was well-researched. It's on the MacM website I think.

Not too soon though. I think I walked a bit more very day after about two weeks when I came home from my op, then swam most days after about 6 weeks. Taichi is a very good, gentle exercise too, as you can do as much or as little as you can. It can even be done sitting in a chair, and there have been studies in USA to show it can help promote healing.

You need to get over any treatment first though, so take it easy until you have had the oknfrommyour CNS or medical team. No Zumba yet ;-)

All the best,

Love Wendy xx


Okay now I feel like a lazy cow, I have done nothing in the way of exercise and we have an indoor gym, I haven't done more than walk around the shops. I get up every morning with good intentions, but that's it, I need motivation and it has evaded me :(



I am sure you'll get back to exercise, but it's early days yet, Lily-Ann. You need a chance to get yourself over all that you've been dealing with of late. Be gentle with yourself, find a few treats that you enjoy and plan to have time to enjoy them, a facial perhaps or a listen to a favourite bit of music, or a DVD or film, feet up Nd a cup/glass of something nice...... You get the idea. Forget exercise apart from a gentle walk outside, which lifts the spirits I always find, especially if you live somewhere where you can find a bit of nature and countryside to look at. It all takes time :-)

Love Wendy xx


Hi sue, I have invaded your post now lol. Exercise at this point isn't a major issue. After my hysterectomy 12 yrs ago and my c sections with my kids and more recently my tumour removal in 2005 I always fell back on my post natal exercises. They were gentle on the tum but also very helpful. Walking abit and building it up gradually will also help. As for swimming, while your having chemo they don't recommend. But you can ask your gp or hosp when it's ok for you to start swimming. It's the best exercise if you enjoy it. It works every muscle you have but doesn't put a strain on you. Hope you find some of this helpful. Kelly x


Kelly, ALL these are helpful in different ways!



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