Supportive care

Exercise

Regular exercise during and after your treatment for head and neck cancer can help you feel better and recover more quickly.
Exercise during and after your treatment may help you:

  • feel stronger

  • be less anxious or worried

  • feel happier

  • have a higher self-esteem

  • feel less tired

  • sleep better.

What type of exercise should I do?

Including an exercise routine into your daily life doesn’t need to be hard. Whether you’re just starting to exercise or you are continuing an exercise routine, it is a good idea to talk with your cancer team, GP, or an exercise physiologist about the type and amount of exercise that is best for you.

Once you have spoken with your doctor, you should start slowly and build up your fitness.

  • Always warm up (such as stretching) for about 2 to 3 minutes before you begin any exercise.

  • Start with short periods of exercise and take regular breaks. For example, you might start with 5-10 minutes of walking and build up to 30 minutes of walking in one go.

  • Try to do exercise that uses large muscle groups, such as your thighs, belly, chest and back. This could include walking, cycling or swimming.

  • Use resistance bands or small weights to strengthen your muscles and bones.

  • Stretch regularly to improve your flexibility.

  • Most importantly, keep exercise easy and fun!

And remember, it’s ok if you don’t feel like exercising all the time. The late effects of cancer treatment such as feeling tired, can sometimes make it difficult to stay active. Exercise when you feel up to it and rest when you need to.

‚ÄčWhere can I find support?

When you are ready to begin exercising, it is a good idea to see an exercise professional, such as a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist. They are trained to give you advice on exercise. Your doctor can refer you to a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist who can work with you to create an exercise program that you will be interested in and that you are able to do.

You can find out more about exercise from Cancer Council Victorias Exercise for people living with cancer.

The Cancer Council NSW runs a lifestyle program called ENRICH. You can contact the helpline to find out more and register to take part. It is a good way to start or get back into exercise after your cancer treatment