Exercise May Reduce the Side Effects of Chemo

New research shows walking or jogging helps patients with advanced gastrointestinal cancer to cope better with the side effects of chemotherapy.

Gastrointestinal cancers are some of the most common types of cancer. Skin, lung, and breast cancer are the three most diagnosed cancers, but colorectal cancer ranks sixth on the list with more than 71,000 new cases each year. Add to that stomach cancer, liver cancer, small intestine cancer, and esophageal cancer, and you have the various types included in the broad category of gastrointestinal cancer. Pretty scary, right?

Thankfully, exercise is here to help make life a little bit easier. According to a new study from a German university, mild exercise can reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and improve the overall wellbeing of GI cancer patients. A team of researchers from Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main gathered patients with advanced gastrointestinal tumors, all of whom were undergoing chemotherapy. The patients weren’t all able to keep up with even the mild pace of the workouts—chemotherapy and the other cancer treatments can be brutal on the body. But every patient did their best to get as much exercise as possible, shooting for no less than 150 minutes per week.

The exercise program proved valuable for the wellness of the cancer patients. Not only did their muscle mass increase as a result of the workouts, but their leg strength, balance, and walking speed also increased. The toxicity of the chemotherapy was reduced as a result of the workouts. It helped the patients to recover from the treatments faster and restored better function to their gastrointestinal tracts.

Exercise may not have done anything to deal with the tumors themselves, but it significantly improved the quality of the patients’ lives. Those who did exercise had more energy and were more mobile after the exercise program was completed. Simply put, exercise can help you recover from harsh chemotherapy treatments more quickly.

If you are going to try to add exercise to your cancer treatment, make sure to take it slow. The toxic effects of chemotherapy can do a lot of harm to your body beyond simply killing off cancer cells. This is especially true for treating gastrointestinal cancer. The chemo drugs can interfere with your digestive system and make it difficult to eat or drink anything. But exercise has been proven in the past to be a digestive aid that can help to balance your gastrointestinal function.

To recover from the treatment more quickly, it’s worth adding in a bit of mild exercise. Go at a slow pace and take breaks as needed, but shoot to hit those 150 minutes per week. The exercise can make all the difference in your recovery.


1. Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main. “Gastrointestinal cancer: Physical exercise helps during chemo.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 March 2017.