Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Physical changes / muscle wasting

Cancer and cancer treatment can impact your physical abilities and normal daily routine. You may experience changes in your physical mobility, posture, balance, speech, and/or bodily and reproductive functions. These changes can interfere with your ability to work and participate in your usual activities.

If you feel like you don’t have enough energy to get through the day, the last thing you may want to do is exercise. However, any amount of activity (no matter how small) can help you regain lost strength, and may also help you better tolerate your cancer treatment. Also, inactivity can actually result in muscle wasting and loss of function, and can make you feel more tired.

Keep in mind that starting an exercise program during or after cancer treatment is not always recommended. It is important to consult with your healthcare team, including a rehabilitation therapist, to determine the level of exercise that works for you.

Tips for staying active

  • Always check with your doctor before beginning any physical activity. Depending on your condition, your doctor may want you to limit certain activities.
  • Choose activities that are right for you and that you enjoy.
  • Be creative and vary your activities.
  • Set short term and long term goals for yourself.
  • Start out slowly and gradually increase your physical activity to a level that best suits you.
  • Try shorter, easier versions of the activities you enjoy.
  • Begin and end your activities with light walking and gentle stretching exercises.
  • Plan activities for when you're feeling best.
  • Try to use your energy on the activities most important to you.
  • Remember to balance activity with rest. Set aside time throughout the day to rest and take short naps in between activities.
  • Know your limits. If you can't carry on a conversation while you are exercising, you may be pushing yourself too hard.
  • If you feel too tired, try to do 10 minutes of gentle stretching exercises in place of a walk.
  • Get friends and family involved in your activities so they can offer their companionship and support.
  • Try to eat a well-balanced diet to give your body the energy it needs. It is also very important to stay hydrated.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule and address any distressing emotions you may be feeling.

NOTE: This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to making decisions about your treatment.