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Pancreatic cancer and physical activity

Being less active, as well as eating and drinking less, can lead to loss of muscle strength and overall fitness. These are common effects of pancreatic cancer, surgery and chemotherapy.

Gentle physical activity can help to maintain or improve your strength and fitness. It may also help you feel better, and cope better with treatment. For example, physical activity can help you deal with fatigue (extreme tiredness).

It's important to exercise within your own limits. You may find that some days are better than others. Take it easy and only do what you are able to. 

It's a good idea to speak to your doctor or nurse before starting any kind of exercise plan. They may also refer you to a physiotherapist for more specialist advice and help with physical activity. Physiotherapists are health professionals who help people cope with illness and manage symptoms through movement and exercise. 

You may also be referred to an occupational therapist. They can provide equipment and help with everyday activities, such as dressing or going to the shops, if you are struggling with these. 

Some cancer support services, such as Maggie’s Centres, run exercise courses for people with cancer. Ask your GP about any services available in your area. 

What sort of exercise would help?

For most people, doing ten minutes of gentle exercise three times a day would be suitable. This could include:

  • Going for a walk around the block or garden
  • Light housework or gardening
  • Sitting in a chair or lying on a bed or floor, raising your leg, and holding it for a few seconds, before lowering it and repeating a few times
  • Lifting some small weights, tins of food or bottles of water while sitting in a chair
  • Walking up and down a few steps.

If you usually do a lot of exercise, you may wish to do more than this. Don't do any vigorous exercise without talking to your doctor or physiotherapist first.

Even if you are in hospital, some form of physical activity can help maintain your level of fitness. This can help you cope better once you leave hospital.

Published November 2017

To be reviewed November 2019

Information Standard