Chemotherapy: Stretches for Health

Chemotherapy: Stretches for Health

Before beginning any exercise program, please check with your physician or physical therapist! Not all exercises or stretches are appropriate for everyone – please read my full medical disclaimer here before trying any of the exercises listed below.

It’s no secret that it can be difficult to stay active during chemotherapy. While exercise has been proven to have many physical and emotional benefits during cancer treatment, some days it’s just difficult to get moving. I’ve designed this short stretching compilation to stretch the spine and major joints of the body to promote mobility and circulation on even the most difficult chemo days. Make these stretches part of your daily routine or use them to loosen up after a nap or before bed!

Watch the video for a full demonstration:

*Note: Video plays at 2x speed! Take your time when you’re stretching!

Child’s Pose

From a kneeling, or seated position, slide the hands forward until you feel a stretch in the shoulders and lower back. Hold for 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: For greater stretch of the side body, walk the hands to the left or right.


Begin on hands and knees in a neutral spine position with hips stacked over knees and shoulders stacked over the wrists. Inhale and slowly drop the belly to arch the back, lifting the breast bone. The, exhale and round the back from the tailbone to the neck, broadening the space between the shoulder blades. Alternate moving into each position for 5-10 repetitions.

Modifications: Perform in a seated position, reaching forward as you round the back, and allowing the arms to reach behind you as you lift the chest.

Hip Flexor Stretch

In a kneeling position, square your hips and tuck your tailbone until a gentle stretch is felt across the front of the hip. Perform deep breaths. Hold 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: Perform in a standing partial lunge position, hold onto something for balance. To increase the depth of the stretch, sidebend the body away from the bottom/back leg.

Hamstring Stretch

In a kneeling or seated position, stretch one leg out in front of you. Square the hips and straighten the knee as you hinge from your hips to deepen the stretch along the back of the leg. Try not to round the lower back to allow for the best stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: Lie on your back and use a strap/towel to pull a straight leg up toward the ceiling. Flex your foot to deepen the stretch.

Butterfly Stretch

Sit with the soles of your feet touching and knees dropping down toward the floor. Perform deep breaths. Hold for 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: Place pillows or yoga blocks under the knees to reduce strain on the hips, lean forward to deepen the stretch.

All stretches are designed to be gentle, but can be progressed if they become too easy. Stretches can be performed 1-3 times per day as needed.

Happy stretching!

Aloha ❤

Move Your Body

Move Your Body

Happy Aloha Sunday, friends!

I’ve been feeling much better the last few days and was able to work a little bit over the weekend. I’ve been lucky to keep working my “COVID” job (giving good news to patients who’ve tested negative), and I can’t say enough how grateful I am to work with such a supportive rehab team, COVID team, and organization!

Yesterday, I went for a walk around the neighborhood by myself. It feels so good to get outside and have some time to process everything. I’ve been using the Calm App recently, and I used their mindful walking exercise yesterday which was soothing. It helped me stay more conscious in the moment, rather than letting my overactive brain run wild.

I also used one of my favorite apps called Charity Miles. This app tracks your distance using GPS, and their sponsors donate so many cents per mile walked/ran/biked to a charity of your choice. It may be a small way to give back, but I am grateful I can have even a little bit of impact just by taking my daily walks. I hope you’ll try it, too!

Workout with a view!

As a physical therapist, I have seen how significant the impact of regular exercise can be for anyone, let alone someone going through cancer treatments. There are some general guidelines that are good for everyone, but for those with cancer, the exercise type and intensity may need to be monitored more closely.

For example, for people undergoing chemotherapy, it’s important not to overexert themselves during exerce in order to protect the heart! It is equally important not to be a couch potato in order to keep the heart strong. During chemo, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise like walking, biking, or swimming. That’s about 30-60 minutes, 3-5 days per week – not so bad, huh?

Interestingly enough, these are the exact same guidelines they recommend for a “regular” person too! Aerobic exercise is a great way to improve cardiovascular health, aid sleep, and boost the immune system along with many, many other things!

Personally, I am trying to stay at about 30-40% of my maximum heart rate to avoid too much strain on my heart (normally I would walk at about 40-60% of my max heart rate), which is why I’ll likely stick with walking and light hiking for aerobic exercise over the next few months. I’ll miss you spin class (*sobs*)!

I also had my husband help me perform a baseline treadmill test so I could know where I started from, and I plan to repeat this test mid-chemo as well as after treatments, so I can be sure to catch any significant deconditioning as early as possible.

Strength, or resistance, training is also part of my routine, but usually only 2-3 times per week. I prefer Pilates, yoga, or bodyweight training. Resistance training improves mood, helps build lean muscle and reduces body fat, but it also becomes extremely important for helping to balance blood glucose & insulin levels (here I go again, I know…). Also, doesn’t it just feel gooddd when you can lift heavy things?!

Exercise (especially during cancer treatment or for an injury) should always be tailored to a person’s individual preferences and goals. Working with a physical therapist can be extremely helpful to prevent cancer-related fatigue, muscle atrophy, and functional decline, and if you need help finding a provider in your area, reach out to me or check out this handy tool through the American Physical Therapy Association!

*I would highly recommend any patient undergoing active care for cancer to have a physical therapist or exercise physiologist follow them throughout treatment to keep you as safe, strong and active as possible.
ALWAYS check with you doctor before beginning a new exercise program.*

Remember, * Exercise * IS * Medicine *