Exercise and Blood Cancer

Blood cancer occurs when blood cells aren’t made properly. They grow out of control and spread throughout a person’s bloodstream. The cells evolve in the spongy bone marrow that is found in the middle of bones and disrupt the role of normal healthy blood cells. The main types of blood cancer include:

  • Lymphoma
  • Leukemia
  • Myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Myeloproliferative diseases


How does exercise help?

Treatment for blood cancer is known to be quite lengthy and reduces an individual’s physical capacity. Side effects of this cancer include:

  • Severe anemia - abnormally low levels of red blood cells or hemoglobin
  • Thrombocytopenia - abnormally low levels of platelets 
  • Fatigue  

High doses of corticosteroids with long periods of bed rest lead to muscle wasting. Blood cancer and it’s treatment related side effects negatively impact an individual’s quality of life.


Evidence says that exercise reduces depression and fatigue in those with blood cancer. Exercise has also shown many other important benefits such as:

  • Increased cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength and endurance and balance
  • Improved physical function and ability to to complete everyday tasks
  • Improved bone health and reduced risk of falls
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Improved quality of life 
  • Reduced risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and dementia

What type of exercise is best?

Individuals with blood cancer are advised to progress towards and then maintain participation in:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise each week
  • 2-3 resistance exercise sessions per week that involves moderate to vigorous intensity exercises targeting major muscle groups


Some individuals with blood cancer experience changes to their bones that may increase the risk of fractures. It is recommended that you consult an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to reduce your risk of falls and fractures.


Exercise Right. 2022. Exercise Right for Blood Cancer. [online] Available at: <>