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World Cancer Day: 5 fitness activities that can reduce risk of relapse

World Cancer Day is an ideal opportunity to highlight the important role that sport and exercise can play in the fight against the disease.

health-and-fitness Updated: Apr 03, 2017 19:18 IST
World Cancer Day is observed on February 4 every year.
World Cancer Day is observed on February 4 every year.(Shutterstock)

World Cancer Day is an ideal opportunity to highlight the important role that sport and exercise can play in the fight against the disease. As a complement to treatments, physical activity can slow the progression of the disease, improve quality of life and reduce the risk of relapse. Here’s a selection of suitable activities to try, preferably with a friend.

Getting moving while fighting cancer or after recovery is essential for reducing fatigue (reduced by 36% on average according to several scientific studies), limiting the loss of muscle mass caused by anticancer treatments, and managing side effects.

Sport is also an excellent remedy for lifting mood and regaining mental wellbeing. It promotes sleep, stimulates immunity and helps rebuild self-esteem.

After recovery, physical activity can improve survival rates by reducing the risk of metastasis and relapse. Three 20- to 30-minute sessions per week are recommended, as regularity is more important than intensity.

Here’s a pick of suitable sports and activities, overseen by specially trained instructors from associations or clubs.

Nordic walking


This low-impact stress-buster is a great alternative to power walking. It’s ideal for getting out in the fresh air and getting the blood pumping. Walking with sticks requires coordinated movement, getting all muscles moving while boosting energy expenditure.

Nordic walking is recommended as a preventative activity, as well as for cancer patients and survivors, particularly those affected by breast cancer. Nordic walking can be practiced at any age. Various groups, clubs and associations now offer the sport.

Elliptical training


The elliptical trainer, or cross-trainer, is a machine found in most gyms, offering beneficial stamina-building exercise that’s a whole body workout. It can be practised during chemotherapy to help reduce fatigue or as a preventative activity.

A study published in JAMA Oncology showed that 300 minutes of elliptical trainer reduced body fat and reduced the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. This workout can be enjoyed alone or with a gym buddy.

Dragon boat


This paddle-powered dugout canoe is traditionally associated with Asia. The activity, which is akin to rowing, is particularly recommended for women who have previously suffered from breast cancer, as it promotes lymphatic drainage while using back muscles and working the arms.

This cooperation-based team sport also relies on the strength and energy of each individual. It’s a drug-free therapy that combines sport, fun and camaraderie outside in the fresh air!

Qi gong


This branch of traditional Chinese medicine is today recognised and used in certain hospitals, like the CHU de La Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris, to ease the side effects of chemotherapy. Qi gong increases the uptake and absorption of oxygen from the blood. Its effect on certain enzymes has also been demonstrated. By improving the flow of internal energy throughout the body, qi gong improves well-being, reduces fatigue and fosters serenity.


This activity, practised in France, was developed by the co-founder of the French association CAMI Sport et Cancer. The technique teaches movements that are specially tailored, effective and intense, and which use all of the body’s muscle and bone chains.

Based on beneficial postures, Médiété improves balance while also toning, stretching and strengthening, and teaches breathing exercises. It features choreographed routines involving a series of movements. It’s touted as a good way of reconnecting with the body and clearing the head.

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