Creating a Fitness Regimen for Cancer Patients

As a personal trainer, you’re used to creating individualized plans for each client. During a baseline assessment, you note certain strengths and weaknesses you’ll need to accommodate in the plan. And while you may be able to devise plans that accommodate injuries, you may be less familiar with creating plans for cancer patients.

In most cases, survivors will face symptoms and side effects that can complicate their workouts. For instance:

  • Chemotherapy-induced fatigue can make it difficult for patients to commit to frequent or high-intensity exercise plans.
  • Shortness of breath (which often accompanies lung cancer and mesothelioma) can complicate cardio or endurance training.
  • Chronic cancer-related pain may make patients dread – or even avoid – exercise altogether.

In your first meeting, you’ll want to take special note of the patient’s treatment schedules, dietary therapies and supplementation regimens. You’ll also want to confirm that their oncologist has cleared them to resume exercise. As long as all things are clear on the medical front, you’ll be able to begin assembling a low-intensity plan that focuses on both strength and stamina.

Do make the effort to accommodate the following:

  • The patient’s abilities may vary from day to day, depending on the medications they are on and how their body is responding to treatment.
  • They may struggle to adjust to post-diagnosis drops in physical conditioning – especially if they were very active before their diagnosis.
  • Reduced endurance may be especially difficult to accept, and they may need extra guidance to avoid doing too much, too soon.
  • They may be dealing with additional mental factors – like anxiety – that can interfere with their physical performance.

The Best Exercises for Cancer Patients

While almost any type of mild to moderate physical activity can help with the recovery process, certain exercises are especially beneficial for cancer patients. The following three options are gentle on a survivor’s body and provide bonus benefits

  • Reclining Hero is a gentle yoga pose that calms nausea, which many patients experience during chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
  • Prayer Twist is another gentle yoga pose that encourages healthy digestion and helps counteract diarrhea and constipation.
  • Light weight training – While you’d never overlook strength conditioning, knowing that it helps counteract the bone density loss that chemotherapy causes is another good reason to emphasize the iron.

If you’ve developed exercise regimens for cancer patients, especially after a difficult prognosis, what can you share with your fellow trainers?
Faith Franz

Faith Franz writes for The Mesothelioma Center at She encourages patients to consider the benefits of alternative medicine.



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