How can I keep active with lung cancer?

1 answer | Last updated: Mar 11, 2014
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have had lung cancer for two years. I am a 61 year old woman. I try to get going with an exercise program and find it difficult. Now my knees hurt. I am on pain medications but this does not help much. I tire quickly or if I push it I pay for it the next day with having to sleep most of the day. My new thing is that my knees feel like they are going to give out. I used to be a gym nut now it is hard to just to keep it together. What can I do?

Expert Answers

Bonnie Bajorek Daneker is author and creator of the The Compassionate Caregiver's Series, which includes "The Compassionate Caregiver's Guide to Caring for Someone with Cancer," "The Journey of Grief," "Handbook on Hospice and Palliative Care," and other titles on cancer diagnosis and end of life. She speaks regularly at cancer research and support functions, including PANCAN and Cancer Survivor's Network. She is a former member of the Executive Committee of the CSN at St. Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta and the Georgia Chapter of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

You likely have the double dilemma of low energy from your disease and a change in lung function, which makes it hard to catch your breath or do deep breathing. As you know from your history of going to the gym, breathing is a critical piece of exercise, and your challenge is not to overexert. One solution that might work for you is the "chair" exercise series. In these videos, they guide you to do exercises while you are sitting down. This way you can start slowly, and seated, so it's easy to monitor your own progress. My personal favorite is the "ChairAerobics" because it's energetic without being overwhelming. Also, after you've gotten the hang of it you can challenge yourself for a harder workout. Here's the website:

Another solution may be Pilates exercises on the floor on a mat or towel. These may be especially good for you because there is a breathing component incorporated with small, gentle movements. There are good videos available for online viewing at, or available for purchase from online vendors as well.

Neither of these two solutions should be hard on your knees.

Be sure to start slowly and drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. Exercising helps reduce stress and build energy level. Keep trying different kinds, as you are able. You can do it!