Skip to content

But I’m tired, why should I exercise?

Note: This post is written by the team of The ONE Group (Oncology – Nutrition – Exercise) at Penn State College of Medicine as part of a first-person blog about their work. Learn more about the group here.

As you undergo cancer treatment, you might be asking yourself, I’m tired, why should I exercise, shouldn’t I conserve my energy? You might have even had a friend or family member tell you that you need to slow down.

What they might not know is that the research on physical activity and cancer shows that physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce cancer-related fatigue. Being regularly physically active will not only help the general cancer-related fatigue you may be feeling, but moving more also helps your body work better. Not only that, but physical activity can make your mood better. It’s been shown to help when people are feeling blue or nervous. Making your body work better, and helping you feel happier and less nervous can also help to make you feel less tired.

The physical activity guidelines recommend getting 150 minutes of physical activity each week. If that is not practical for you, the guidelines also say that some activity is better than none, and you should work to break up any sitting time. There are a lot of lighter-intensity options that you can do if you feel too tired for a full exercise session.

If you’re feeling really tired, try sitting less and standing more while doing general activities. You can also try taking slow walks, for just a few minutes at a time. Those walks may not be as long or fast-paced as your usual walking, but they are much better than no walking at all. Maybe try and find an activity that you enjoy doing already, and add some physical activity. For instance, call a friend and walk around your home while talking to them. Put on your favorite television show and do some light stretching or balancing exercises. Maybe listen to your favorite music while doing some active chores like folding clothes or sweeping. All of these are ways to get more physical activity on days when you are feeling too tired to exercise.

Why don’t you take a minute or two now to think of some little “bite-sized” activities that you can do when you are feeling really tired. That way, when you are feeling that way, you’ll know what you can do to help!

More from The ONE Group

If you're having trouble accessing this content, or would like it in another format, please email the Penn State College of Medicine web department.