One of the Most Important Things You Can Do as a Cancer Survivor

Eating Right & Exercising!

Would you believe us if we told you that going to the gym could help you keep cancer away? We all know that a healthy weight and daily exercise is very important for cardiovascularCAR-DEE-O-VAS-CUE-LAR — Relating to the heart and blood vessels health. A lesser-known fact is that exercise also helps decrease your risk of developing cancer, whether you're trying to prevent a new diagnosis or recurrent cancerREE-CER-ENT CAN-SIR — The return of cancer after a period of time following initial diagnosis.1

Regular exercise can help with many aspects of post-treatmentTREET-MINT — Techniques to help eliminate or control a disease life, like managing your weight and dealing with fatigue. Surprisingly, exercising is the only thing proven to decrease fatigue.2

While it may not make sense, a bit of activity, as little as walking, may help you regain some of your energy. Additionally, a healthy weight can improve your mood and mental health, decrease joint pain, and reduce your risk for diseases like diabetesDIE-AH-BEE-TEES — A disease where a person’s blood sugars are higher than normal, eventually leading to serious medical issues and heart diseaseHART DUH-ZEEZ — A condition that affects the heart's function, which can lead to chest pain and heart attacks—all of which are great things!

healthy plate
If you’re already at a healthy weight and work out daily, congratulations! You’re ahead of most people. Keep it up! We know it can be hard to stay on track.

If you don’t already exercise, remember to start small with reachable goals. Start by talking to your doctor about what you can do. Once you have the green light, leisurely walks with your dog are not enough. Think of your sweat as cancer repellent. Try to get out there and get your heart rate up every day.


That might sound like a lot of work, but part of exercising is having the right attitude. Think of exercise as something fun. It's a chance to go outside in the sun or give yourself 30 minutes of “me time,” away from your work or kids. Having a positive attitude towards exercise will make you more likely to continue.

Keep in mind that exercise and a healthy diet go hand-in-hand; exercise isn't enough on its own. It’s good for maintaining your weight, but you must diet to lose weight. The word diet might have just made you cringe a little, but again, it’s all about attitude.

To help you out, here are a few easy tips:
  • Set a small weight loss goal.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. Try a pound a week, instead of 10.
  • Eat some veggies.
  • Limit those sugary drinks and desserts.
  • Give up alcohol; it has a lot of calories. If you do drink, limit yourself to one a day for women or two a day for men. But you either use it or lose it. You can’t “bank” your drinks and carry them forward. Finally, try to limit how many days a month you do drink.
Don’t know where to start? Try using a food journal. You can use a pen and paper, notes on your phone, or a handy app. Pick what works best for you.

The key to food journaling is to record not only your weight but also what you eat for every meal (don't forget about snacks and drinks). The catch? You must be honest. If you don’t meet your weight goals, that’s okay. Your goal was just to track it.

If you need help getting started or staying on course, there are many different apps or weight management programs that can help you do just this.

  1. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Survivorship (Version 2.2016). National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Accessed February 14, 2017.
  2. Voigt V, Neufeld F, Kaste J, et al. Clinically assessed posttraumatic stress in patients with breast cancer during the first year after diagnosis in the prospective, longitudinal, controlled COGNICARES study. Psycho-Oncology. 2016;26(1):74-80.
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