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53 Posts
Has anyone been exercising in between chemo (other than walking) anyone cardio?
15 Replies
1032 Posts

Hi @Aliya,

Exercise is very important during treatments, recovery and throughout life.

I would highly recommend the EXCEL program by the University Of Calgary. It is available online to all Canadian cancer patients during the pandemic restrictions. The program is done in circuit style and includes exercises to improve and/or maintain flexibility, strength, balance and cardiovascular health while receiving treatments or recovering from treatments.

They do a fitness assessment prior to the first session and suggest various modifications to meet the individual needs of patients in the group.

Here is a link for more information: https://kinesiology.ucalgary.ca/labs/health-and-wellness/research/research-studies/exercise-cancer-enhance-living-well-excel

Treatments affect everyone differently. Many people continue to exercise at a high intensity throughout treatments while others need to reduce the intensity. I enjoyed aerobics and running, but can not do it now because of reduced strength and stamina. However, I am in my second year of treatments so that may be the reason.

There are other members here who continued exercising throughout treatments, but I am not sure who they are to be able to tag them. (@Runner Girl and @ashcon, were you two members who continued running throughout your treatments? Sorry if I am mistaken! Thank you.)

Most importantly, listen to your body and follow your doctor’s recommendations. Best wishes to you, @Aliya, as you start your treatments.

174 Posts

I did yoga and handweights on most days in between chemo, as well as 30 minute brisk walks…mine was a 3 week cycle. Getting onto the end of my 6 rounds, I got more worn down, so I stopped the handweights. I got my oncologist's approval first, as I had had extensive surgery in my abdomen prior to chemo - it was healing well before I started that.

I could have probably used some cardio…so much energy to burn from the steroids and anxiety!

I've heard of people training for marathons during chemo…there is a guy who did a TED talk on it. I couldn't imagine doing that PRIOR to cancer, personally…:)

I hope you are well and continue to feel well enough to do what you want to do.


Runner Girl
2730 Posts

@Aliya @S2020

I was training for my 11th half marathon when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. I had my lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy on May 23 and I ran the half marathon on June 16, in a respectable time of 2 hours 14 minutes. My oncologist requested that I not run more than 10 km at any given time during my treatment, due to the fact that I would be having Herceptin for my HER2+ and it can affect the heart. I continued to run throughout treatment as I could, taking the days after chemo off so my body could recover.

You can do as much or as little exercise as your body will allow. Doing some form of exercise will help you avoid fatigue. The only way out of fatigue is to get active. Even if it is just getting out for a walk, it's good for the body and soul.

Runner Girl

2173 Posts


Hello, from a fellow Ontarian! Yes, exercise if you can throughout your treatments. If I am not wrong, you're about to start chemo? If yes, then double yes! They say that the chemo accumulates in your body as you go through your 6, 8, 10, 12 rounds {or however many you have). I found that exercise was also cumulative, so it helped to counteract the cumulative effects of chemo. Both physically and mentally. I remember one day I got some bad news from my oncologist. I could have gone home and just cried. Instead, I did a 1-hour work out and it helped take the edge off my fear enough to get through the next phase of my treatments.

I don't run, but I went to a 12 week cancer-patient fitness program that was offered for free, courtesy of an arrangement between my cancer centre in Kitchener and the University of Waterloo. (this was before covid). Let's be clear, when you are exercising while doing chemo, you are not Arnold Schwarzenegger. You are more like a weak newborn kitten most days. But, inside, you feel like Arnold after a good workout!

Good news: my program, like others that @S2020 have mentioned, have moved to online. And since finishing treatments (it's been almost 4 years!) I have stuck with their graduate program. Not free now, but very, very reasonably priced.

I don't know where you are located in ON but this link in the Community Services Locator for Rehabilitation and Exercise may have something for you 🏋️😁

What are you most worried about with your upcoming treatments?


40 Posts

Hi @Aliya…I am going to enthusiastically recommend exercising during chemotherapy, but in proportion to what you might have been doing before your cancer. In other words, if you were not an athlete Before you started cancer treatment, you will have to start very gradually and then work up to more. (Perhaps getting an assessment from an exercise physiologist would be a good start if you are in this situation; I don't think it would cost you too much, and they would be able to guide you.) And of course, the best advice is to listen to what your body is trying to tell you all along the way! When I started my chemotherapy at the end of October, (stage 3 breast cancer) I simply carried on with all the things I had been doing which in my case was running approx. 3-5 Km per day with my dogs (either distance, timed, interval runs or speedwalking depending on the day), curling 5-6 times per week (usually at skip, so it didn't take too much out of me) gym workout with a trainer 3x/week, and the occasional indoor tennis class. Again, because I was already at this high level of fitness, I could continue to do this with no issues and I felt great! However, things have changed a bit now, as the curling and tennis have been shutdown since just before Christmas (here in Ontario) and although the gyms are also closed, I am carrying on with Zoom workouts. As I moved from my first two chemo. drugs to the current Paclitaxel, I also found that my red blood count was no longer permitting me to run more than a block or two without having to stop and regroup…So, I have moved to a temporary program of nothing but speedwalking (30 minutes at no less than 130 steps/minute) and we are taking a little additional time in our workouts to just allow me a little extra breather at times before going on…If the curling and tennis come back soon, I will just monitor…and cut back a little bit if I need to. So what I am saying here is yes! there is Always something you can do by way of exercise, as long as you just tailor it to whatever you can handle at any given time--looking forward to the day when the strength will return!

53 Posts

Thank you… considering doing my spin bike in low resistance to begin. I had my first treatment today.

53 Posts

That’s amazing! Exercise really elevates mood and I am so happy you were able to run that marathon!

53 Posts

Thank you so much to all of you for sharing the links. Am in Mississauga n just had my first chemo today.

153 Posts


i would highly recommend the Wellspring Exercise program. It’s 12 weeks - 2x a week - online with trained physiotherapists who specialize in cancer rehabilitation. It’s free.

I did this, and continued with my regular exercise program of daily 30-45 min cardio and weights along with a 30 min walk most days.

I did not have chemo though.

Mtn Girl
5 Posts

Hello @Aliya,

Just as others have said, exercise has been a big part of my life. About 12 years ago I got into running, with the couch to 5 km program. I found running easier than going to the gym when my kids were young. For a number of years I was running 20 every Saturday. In 2020 my distance dropped and dropped and I really slowed down. The Hodgkin's-lymphoma was found when I could not keep up with my running buddies and I was down to 7 km. When I tested negative for covid multiple times to ensure it wasn't a false neg, my doctor sent me for a chest xray because she thought I had pneumonia. X-ray showed large masses in my chest, over 7.5 cm. I didn't have any bumps I could feel. I only noticed a problem when running. My day to day was fine. Although I was tired I just figure that was due to going back to school at the graduate level and taking a heavy 6 courses. And kids needing extra help due to COVID.

My treatment was ABVD, every second Thursday. For the first three weeks, my oncologist said I could only walk because he wasn't sure if the tumor had crossed into a major vein. He was concerned about a hole in the vein. Fortunately there wasn't a hole and I was allowed to resume any distance I wanted. I started the Alberta Cancer Exercise program near the start of chemo too. I ran outside through out the chemo(Jan-June). Anywhere from 5-10 km every Saturday. I always felt better on the first Saturday after chemo. I think that was due to the meds I was given to take the 3 days after the chemo. I wonder if dex because I think that is a steriod. The second Saturday was quite doable, just slightly harder.

I started to have trouble at the end of month 4. I have a Garmin so I can measure my heart rate. My heart rate was at my tempo pace within a 1-2 km even though I was running really slow. The effort to continue running after 2 km was immense. I talked to the oncologist and he said that I had developed anemia. My oncologist said I couldn't do anything about it, I just had to accept it for the short while and be ok with walking to I walking every 2 km to let me heart rate drop back down again. With that approach I could run 7-10 km. I found the ace program more challenging for those two months. I think working on my muscle strength 2x a week was good for my running.

Once the chemo was done and the anemia resolved itself, I was feeling much better. Running became easier each.

Days that I didn't run I walked and walked. I found it easier to drink water when I was running. My chemo was often in the afternoon. I would come home, go for a long walk in the sunshine, drink lots of water, have dinner although I often was too hungry. And then crash early in the evening. The meds for that day would wear off while I was sleeping.

My advice is to be as active as you can. Listen to your body. Talk to your oncologist if they support exercise. healingandcancer.org has a good 5 week program going at the moment. This wed is week 3. He is an oncologist and he talks about exercise. Week 1 and 2 videos are on the website.

Wishing you all the best!


53 Posts

@Mtngirl thanks Cathy for sharing your journey. I use my Peloton and yes my oncologist would like me to stay as active as my body allows. i only do 10 mins at light resistance and the some yoga. I wish you so much continued strength. ❤️

120 Posts

@S2020 EXEL offers a free on-line 12week program for cancer patients and has one especially for lung cancer survivors I had hoped to join ealier in the year, you need your Dr’s OK to register. I had quite a wait to get to see my GP to sign me up and missed the deadline. It seems everyone else was having a hard time getting this ok’d as well. Not enough people signed up so they cancelled. The next session is in April. I’m hoping my ok is still valid. Pity cause it would have been perfect through the winter months and I am hoping to get away in April all being well. There is a free 8 week sign up course which I followed. Very low intensity but I did feel my muscles complain by the 6 - 8 sessions.Better than sitting around all day !

96 Posts

@s2020 Thanks for posting the link to exercises. I've been looking for something like that for over one year. Ended up developing my own program but can always use more information. Anybody know why ELLICSR doesn't post much or all of this content?

218 Posts
@Sipsi You could join www.inspirehealth.ca. based in Vancouver. They offer weekly exercise programs, yoga and a variety of supportive cancer programs for cancer patients. Currently all classes are on Zoom and exercise & yoga classes are directed by an exercise therapist or yoga instructor. There are no start or end dates, but you have to sign up for the classes that interest you each week. No doctors note is required but an interview with one of the exercise therapists is required before commencement. I really enjoy both the yoga and exercise classes. There is no cost to join or participate. Joan

Forgive me but I didn't see a link to the YouTube version of the EXCEL program so here it is :

Well worth the wait and hassle of getting into the U of C program. I'm actually paying for the privilege this time around and can't believe the advances I'm making.


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