Woman stretching

12 March 2021

Gentle exercise brings us so many physical and mental benefits. These are especially important at the moment, as we are spending more time at home. There are many things you can do with spaces and props around your home.

Cancer exercise specialist Lizzy Davis leads our Tuesday afternoon fitness classes as part of the Staying Connected programme. Every few months, she also leads a Q&A session, offering personalised advice to the Ovacome community. Browse and register for our upcoming sessions with Lizzy here.

Below are some top tips and information about exercising during and after treatment, offered by Lizzy in some of our past sessions.


What’s the best form of exercise?

Everyone is different and for some people there are only certain types of exercise that they can do. Enjoyment is important because if you don’t enjoy it, it’s unlikely you will stick to it.

It’s vital to listen to your body. Go kindly and gently to avoid injury and to gradually build strength, stamina and energy.


How often should you exercise?

Building muscle strength is the most important thing, so you should aim to do some strengthening exercises 2-3 times a week. Ideally, you should do some cardiovascular exercise too. This can be done from a chair if you are unable to stand. Deep breathing exercises are useful for building your abdominal muscles.

Start building up the amount of time you spend exercising incrementally and you will build up your stamina. Be sure to work around any symptoms you have – the aim is not to cause discomfort or push yourself too hard.


If you’re experiencing joint pain

If you’re experiencing joint pain, don’t do anything to aggravate the area, but don’t avoid exercising it completely. Gradually build up strength, making sure you mobilise all joints before you begin strength training, and do a good long warm-up. You could try placing a heat pad around the affected joints before you exercise, as that can help with blood flow, and/or use a cold pack after you exercise to reduce any swelling.

To avoid straining any area, alternate upper body with lower body exercises, and alternate days so they’re not consecutive.


If you’re due to have surgery

Anything you can do to help your strength and resilience before surgery will beneficial.  Focus on a whole-body approach rather than just your abdominal muscles. Exercises to strengthen your back and sides of the waist really help with posture after surgery.

Lots of deep breathing exercises can help to strengthen the diaphragm and will help recovery afterwards by helping to flush the lymphatic system.


After surgery

Start very gently, focusing on getting your joints moving again. Walking, little and often, is very beneficial. Gentle stretching and posture exercises can help to work the muscles gradually. Never do anything that causes you discomfort. Some good gentle options are swimming and yoga.

Convatec Abdominal Strengthening exercises have been developed for people with a high risk of an abdominal hernia, those living with a permanent or temporary stoma and those post abdominal wall surgery. You should begin with the green phase, build up slowly and progress with care.


Top tips for exercising at home

  • Think creatively about how to fit your exercise in and make the exercise fun.
  • Set alarms or write notes to remind you to get up and move. Every little movement contributes to big gains over time.

  • Use what you have around to help you – chairs and walls to do exercises against and canned food or bottles of water as weights.

  • To build strength in an area of the body, work towards doing 3 sets of 10 of all exercises, building up each day towards this.

  • Try to get into a regular routine. It might help to keep a record of your movement so you have an incentive to match it or do better the next day.

  • Get people in your household to join in with you, or arrange to exercise with a friend via Zoom.

  • On-line resources help you to feel less isolated and almost as though there is someone else in the room to exercise with – this can really help to stay motivated and keep moving. There is loads of great, free content available on YouTube.

  • Join Lizzy’s gentle exercise classes for Ovacome. They are a fun way to get moving in a friendly and supportive environment.


Cancer exercise specialist Lizzy Davis leads our gentle home exercise class via Zoom on Tuesday afternoons. Find out more and sign up here.

If you have questions about ovarian cancer, please contact our support line on 0800 008 7054 or email [email protected].


Useful links:

Lizzy’s website.

Michelle Kenway

A physical therapist who focuses on safe exercises for those who had have, have pelvic, abdominal health concerns.

Margaret Martin

A physiotherapist whose focus is based on bone health and those with, or at risk of, osteoporosis. Her Melio Guide Website is packed with information. 

She has two books available on Amazon: posture strengthening and core connect. Both are full of safe exercises.