Physical activity

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.

Key facts

  • 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.
  • But it can be hard to be active when you have pancreatic cancer.
  • Try to do some gentle exercise when you can. This could be things like going for a walk, light housework or gardening.
  • It is important to exercise within your own limits. Take it easy and only do what you are able to do.
  • Speak to your doctor or nurse before starting any kind of exercise plan. They can advise you on what type of activities are best for you, and any safety issues to be aware of.

If you are eating or drinking less, or doing less physical activity, you may lose some muscle and strength. Gentle physical activity can help improve your strength and fitness. This can help you to deal with symptoms, and improve how you feel generally.

Find something you enjoy doing, and take it easy. You may find that some days are better than others. You might find it easier to exercise with a friend or relative. But make sure you are in control of how much you do.

Speak to your doctor or nurse before starting any kind of exercise plan. They can advise on the best activities for you, and any safety issues to be aware of. If you have diabetes, be aware that exercising can affect your blood sugar levels.

Your doctor or nurse may refer you to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist for more specialist advice. Physiotherapists help people cope with illness and manage symptoms through movement and exercise. Occupational therapists provide equipment and help with everyday activities, such as dressing or going to the shops.

Some cancer support services run exercise courses for people with cancer. Examples might include yoga, tai chi or walking groups. Ask your GP about any local services.

“The physiotherapist used to visit mum and do a few exercises with her and left a print out of what she could do in her own time at her own pace.”

What sort of exercise could help?

For most people, doing gentle exercise when they are able to would be suitable. This could include:

  • going for a short walk
  • light housework or gardening
  • sitting in a chair or lying on a bed or the 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. Speak to your doctor or physiotherapist before doing vigorous exercise.

If you are in hospital, doing some activity can help your fitness. This can help once you leave hospital. For example, you could try walking along the corridor once a day.

Macmillan Cancer Support has a lot of information about keeping active.

Questions to ask your doctor or nurse


  • Can physical activity help with my symptoms?
  • What sort of physical activity can I do?
  • Would it help to be referred to a physiotherapist?
  • Can I keep doing the exercise I did before?

 

"I found that a little physical activity not only boosts mood and body image but can improve appetite."

Chris

Our blog about keeping active has more tips for things you can try

Read our blog

“For people who were very fit before their diagnosis it is hard to accept that only gentle exercise should be undertaken. I was advised that, although my external scars healed quickly, internal healing takes much longer and that helped me to be patient with myself.”

Chris

Updated March 2023

Review date March 2025