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Physical activity

Maintaining and improving your physical activity in the run up to surgery or during cancer treatment is very important. There is lots of evidence to show that being more active will:

  • reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, including fatigue, nausea and aches and pains
  • reduce the length of time you spend in hospital after an operation
  • speed up your overall recovery
  • improve your wellbeing during treatment
  • reduce post op complications such as chest infections and blood clots.

The NHS provides national guidelines for adults and older adults for physical activity. The image below shows the amount of exercise that is recommended for adults per week. This equates to five 30-minute brisk walks per week plus some exercises to strengthen your muscles on two days a week. Your physiotherapist will work with you to build a personalised plan to increase your activity levels. If you already meet these guidelines for physical activity, you should try and continue this through any treatment you are having, and right up until your operation, unless you have been told otherwise by a health care professional.

Physical Activity For Adults And Older Adults

There are some useful guides and workouts you can access:

NHS Live Well exercise guides
Move Against Cancer support and exercise
Prehab4Cancer online workouts

If you have a diagnosed health condition you can access some local leisure centres for a reduced cost. Below are the links on where and how to do this in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. 

Physical activity referral scheme for Bristol leisure centres
Better Health North Somerset support and advice
South Gloucestershire referral scheme for Active Lifestyle Centres


Breathlessness when exercising is normal, however if you are experiencing breathlessness at rest, or your breathlessness has changed then please let a health professional know before you continue to exercise. You can find out more about managing and treating breathlessness from MacMillan Cancer Support.


Watch these breathing exercises that you can practice at rest, or when you feel breathless such as after exercise.