Strength training

Strong muscles make it easier to do everyday tasks and feel better after a cancer diagnosis. We are here to help you get stronger.

An older man lifts two small weights with the support of a physiotherapist

Muscle strength can be adversely affected following a cancer diagnosis and anti-cancer therapies, with muscles becoming weaker and everyday tasks becoming more challenging. This is due to the effects of the anti-cancer treatment and inactivity. This page will guide you to keep your muscles strong.

On this page, you will find two strength training videos which have been designed by our exercise oncology team. The purpose of these videos is to guide you through different forms of resistance training to maintain or improve your muscle strength.

Anti-cancer therapies including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and targeted therapies can have a direct effect on your muscle strength. Side effects of cancer treatments, such as fatigue, reduced appetite and insomnia will also impact muscle function. For example, fatigue and tiredness may increase your need to rest. After just a short period of time, being physically inactive will cause muscles to weaken and you may become more easily fatigued when moving.

Resistance training is a safe and effective way of maintaining and improving the strength of your muscles. We recommend doing a form of resistance training two or more days per week. This can be done using the videos below or following your own program.

Staying safe when exercising

It is very important to warm up and cool down.

Although every effort has been taken to select exercises that are safe and effective, there may be situations where the exercises may be inappropriate or need adapting to your specific needs. If you have any concerns or any pre-existing medical conditions, please contact your RM team, GP or physiotherapist before starting.

If you develop any symptoms of pain, excessive shortness of breath, chest pain/discomfort or dizziness and light-headedness, sit down and wait for the symptoms to pass. If these are new symptoms stop doing the programme and seek medical advice.

Partial video completions

You may not be able to complete the entire video based on your current condition and fitness. It is perfectly safe to complete only specific parts of the video, for example, only the exercises in standing or only the lower body movements if this is an area which you need to develop. We do recommend you complete the warm-up section regardless of how much you do.

Building muscle strength using your bodyweight

This video is for anyone who may not have or prefer not to use any specific exercise equipment at home. It is appropriate for all levels of fitness but you may need to make adjustments where necessary.

The session ends with exercises on the floor. If you have a lot of difficulty getting on and off the floor independently then we recommend not attempting this section.

Building muscle strength using resistance bands

This video uses resistance, in the form of therabands, to strengthen your muscles. You will require your own resistance bands to complete this video. Resistance bands (or therabands) can vary in strength, so you may need to adjust your hand position to reduce or increase the amount of tension on the band for the different exercises.

The Royal Marsden Hospital NHS Foundation Trust does not take any responsibility for injuries or illness that may arise from participation in the programme.

Nutrition

It is essential to combine resistance training with good nutrition to get the best effect on your muscle strength and power.

Protein intake is a fundamental element of this to provide the building blocks for muscle repair and growth. It is also very important for anyone who has been affected by cancer for the preservation of muscle mass and function.

Contact us

If you are a Royal Marsden patient and have questions about exercise, please call the Physiotherapy Department:

· Chelsea: 020 7808 2821

· Sutton: 020 8661 3098