Working Out Safely With Cancer: 5 Precautions From An Expert

If you have cancer, chances are your health has risen to the top of your priority list. In some ways, it’s the perfect time to start a workout regimen.

But first, consider these five precautions, says Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity at the American Cancer Society.

Don’t push it. If you weren’t active in the past, start slowly. And if you were very active, scale back. Even marathon runner Monika Carlson, who is battling a brain tumor, takes a walk break every mile.

Listen to your body. “Listen to how you’re feeling,” Doyle says. “If there are days you don’t feel like going even for a walk down the block, don’t beat yourself up over it.”

Prevent injuries. Some treatments cause numbness in the hands and feet, or alter your sense of balance. Holding the rails of a treadmill or using a stationary bike might be safer than running on uneven streets.

Avoid risks. “Some people going through treatment become severely anemic,” Doyle says, referring to low red blood cell count. “We encourage them to delay any activity.” Also, people with compromised immune systems should wear masks outdoors, and those with catheters should avoid pools and lakes. Radiation patients should stay away from chlorine, and those with ports should avoid upper-arm strength training.

Talk to your doctor. No one knows your health status better than your oncologist. Be sure to discuss an exercise plan before you begin.

A cancer diagnosis can send you on an emotional roller coaster. The Cancer Institute at Gwinnett Medical Center is here to help you cope, offering support services and patient resources including patient navigators to help educate, support and guide you and your family through diagnosis and treatment.

At GMC’s Cancer Support Center, in addition to patient navigators, we offer other resources including an appearance specialist, support groups, an oncology dietitian and more. Visit to learn more.


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