Exercise during chemo - a dream or possible?

I hope I don´t sound too naiive to those of you already going through this but as soon as I was diagnosed I vowed to keep up my exercise regime as its so importnat for me mentally as well as physical posture wise…has anyone managed to stay fit and keep to any kind of exercise routine during chemo? Or is it really just impossible with the fatigue etc?
Did everyone gain weight during chemo also or have some of you lost it or stayed the same?

Hi sascha,
I actually lost weight during chemo as I went off virtually all food , especially sweet things. I don,t think you,re being naive to hope to continue exercising, everyone responds to chemo differently. I was fairly fit beforehand and managed some fairly long walks during my first 3 cycles but after that fatigue and generally feeling Ill took over. However you respond be kind to yourself, don,t beat yourself up if you don,t feel like exercising. Chemo is really tough on your body so it,s not a time to be pushing yourself to extremes. Just take each day as it comes and good luck, hope you sail thru,
Herbi x

Hi Sascha.
Exercise is proven to be beneficial to people having chemo and I was encouraged by my onc to keep doing it. I found I could walk the week after chemo, manage 9 holes of golf the next week, then golf and some gym work the week leading up to the next chemo. However, docetaxol especially may hit you, and after my last tax I have not been back to the gym, but am starting again 1 month post last chemo.
Just pace yourself, if I overdid it, which I did, you ruin the next few days . I am the same weight now as I was 6 months ago pre diagnosis, even after 10 days tamoxifen too.
Good luck

Hi Sascha,
Go for it! I ran all through chemo. I signed up for the Race for Life to give me something else to focus on, rather than cancer and chemo, and it was the best thing I did. I had 4 FEC & 4 Tax. Originally the date for the race was inbetween FEC and Tax, but in that year (2007) we had a lot of rain and the ground was water-logged. The race was postponed, and it ended up being between the 2nd and 3rd Tax. That made a difference, as Tax really attacks your thigh muscles and I was getting very tired, but I still managed it with only a bit of walking.
By the end of chemo I could barely run a mile, but my fitness came back in the following weeks and months. During chemo I found that no matter how tired I was, going out for a run always made me feel better. There is a big difference between chemo tiredness and post exercise tiredness. As the others have said, listen to your body and do what feels right for you. Last month I did the London marathon to celebrate being five years on. I have raised nearly £4,000 for Cancer Research.
As for weight gain - I have put on no weight, either through chemo or in the last 4 1/2 years of tamoxifen.

I managed to go gym as usual but not to any of the classes ( I used to do kettlebells, step, circuits and spinning) I just went on cross trainer, bike and treadmill. I would also walk around village for some fresh air and although very slow after chemo, the fresh air made me feel better.
I’m sure continuing exercising has helped lessen some of my SE. It does give your mood a lift. It also helps to boost your bloods.
Everyone is affected by chemo in different ways. I was quite tired some days but always managed to get dressed everyday and some domestic chores. I think I was quite lucky with my SE but maybe that was because I was physically fit before. So keep up with the exercise.

Anne xx

Wow Roadrunner! You are amazing. Well done! What an inspiration.
I think it is great that you could do the Race for Life while on chemo and have a feeling that Jane Tompkinson also may have done a marathon just post chemo (maybe someone knows better than me?) I also read Lance Armstrong’s ‘It’s not about the bike’ which charts his journey through treatment back to fitness.
But, while there are extraordinary human beings, some of us have talents in other areas (!!! I am sitting here in my PJ’s working up the energy to go for a 20 minute walk!!!). I cycled London to Brighton in past but currently my ‘work-out’ consists of getting up and dressed! I have been doing some pilates type exercises to try and keep core strength and am trying to walk every day…
I think you have to try and work out what is right for you- you will know what you can and can’t do and there will be good days when you have high energy and low days where you are too poorly to do anything.
I lost weight during chemo the last time- alot of weight. I got back up to ‘normal’ about a year after my diagnosis but didnt have hormone treatment.
Hope this helps.
Good luck.
Rattles, x

It is my understanding Jane Tomlinson did the London marathon whilst on chemo. That was what inspired me to do the Race for Life - it seemed such a minor thing in comparison.
Anne - I agree, I think exercise helps you cope with chemo.

Like the others have said, listen to your body.

I am a fell walker, and was fit before all this started, and managed to continue fell walking until my feet of all things let me down! (combination of a bruise under my big toe nail caused by my walking boots, and sore peeling skin on both feet caused by Docetaxal.)
I’ve not seen any significant change in energy levels, I’ve just been thwarted by my feet grrrrr.

Like Anne I also had minimal se’s and put it down to being fit at the start and remaining active.

Good luck,

Sue x

Hi Sascha. Personally chemo was too fatiguing to do any exercise and I was young and fit, wnet on regular trekking holidays, went hill-walking and ran 3-4 miles 3 times a week beforehand (so I think it’s irrelevant how fit one is beforehand). However, some people manage to carry on almost regardless. I lost a small amount of weight during chemo as my appetite was affected. I guess you’ll just have to see how it works out for you as I see no pattern to these things.
Main thing is, as Herbi says above, don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself unable to physically do some things for a while - it’s not your failure, it’s the chemicals swishing around your body that need to opportunity to do their job.
All the best

Hi Sascha. I had 4 FEC during which I managed to keep hill walking and doing a yoga class. Taxotere laid me low and incapable of almost anything. The doctors decided that my SEs were such that they changed me onto weekly Taxol and I’m glad to report that I am once again back to hill-walking, yoga and have managed 9 holes of golf a couple of times. However, I definitely notice a big difference in my ability to go uphill. My legs start to feel a bit like lead after a relatively short time. I have therefore had to shorten my walks and stay away from the steep inclines. On days that I don’t have something organised I try to get my OH out for 20-30 mins round the neigbourhood and even if I feel shattered before we go out, once I’m walking I seem to feel much better. I really recommend it for helping you to deal with chemo. Take care. Chocy

Sascha - I am exhausted and in awe just reading about all these activities that people are capable of - if it helps to give you reassurance, I am more like you. I am on day 8 after first FEC and I am FECed. I have been out of bed no more than 4 hours a day. All this advice about exercise can make you feel very inadequate. I called the chemo dept about it yesterday expressing the concern, and they said exercise can just mean getting up and making yourself something to eat or walking for 5 minutes, plus doing the breast exercises (many can be done in bed) if possible.
As others have said, the only thing to do is listen to your own body and get there in your own time. But you are not alone in how you feel.
The hospital told me today that in the first few days after chemo, one of the anti-nausea tablets (Dexamethasone) is a steroid which gives you a bit of a boost. So when you stop that on day 4, you can take a big dive in fitness and mental state. They have even allowed me to have another 2 days of it and the effect is dramatic - Having taken just two of them I have been up since 7pm and it’s now 11pm and I don’t feel over-tired. I am sure taking steroids is bad but the little window of “physical sanity” is really welcome.
On another subject, like Herbi, I have lost several pounds in weight because I only have a taste for very healthy food. Could not eat anything sweet or fatty or drink alcohol. My 3 glasses of Pinot Grigio have become 6 pints of water and a bucket of organic carrot juice. A little silver lining to this nightmare, perhaps?
Sleep well, all