How to Exercise With Mesothelioma

While rare, mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer that can impact the lining of your heart, abdomen, or even testicles. And depending on what stage it’s detected in, there’s often little that can be done to reverse the progression of the cancer.

However, that doesn’t mean you should give up or give in to worsening symptoms. There are plenty of ways to fight back and improve your physical symptoms. Exercise is one of your best weapons.

The Power of Exercise for Mesothelioma Patients


Before we dig into specific exercise tips and suggestions, let’s get clear on how mesothelioma impacts the human body.

“The main symptoms are fluid buildup and pain wherever the original tumor exists. This occurs either in the stomach or chest,” mentions. “Other symptoms include trouble breathing and swallowing, fever, persistent coughing, nausea, fatigue, and weight loss. As mesothelioma advances, new symptoms appear and older ones worsen. Your symptoms may indicate your stage.”

While you’ll always want to consult with a doctor first, exercise generally offers a range of benefits for mesothelioma patients. This includes:

  • Improved physical strength ─ Regular exercise can help maintain muscle mass and prevent muscle weakness, which is common during cancer treatment.
  • Enhanced lung function ─ Specific breathing exercises and aerobic activities can help improve lung capacity and reduce breathlessness.
  • Better mental health ─ Exercise releases endorphins, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression often experienced by cancer patients.

On top of that, exercise can help you lose weight and increase energy levels. Overall, while it might not be enjoyable in the moment, it positively impacts your overall health over the long run.

Exercise Tips, Tricks, and Strategies

As you think about implementing a fitness regimen or strategy to help manage your mesothelioma symptoms, here are several tips to consider:

Get Medical Clearance

For starters, seek medical clearance from your oncologist or primary care physician before starting any exercise program. They will assess your current health status, any treatment-related limitations, and overall readiness for physical activity. Your doctors can also suggest certain exercises, goals you should be setting, and specific activities to avoid based on your symptoms and prognosis.

Start Gradually

As is always the case when starting a new exercise regimen, do it gradually. You have to work your way up to a particular level of fitness in order to safely enjoy the benefits. Start small and increase the intensity and duration over time.

For example, let’s say your goal is to be able to walk three miles per day. Don’t attempt to walk three miles on day one. Instead, your goal should just be to go for a walk. Then the next time, it might be to walk one mile total – resting as needed. The third time you go out, the goal is to walk one mile without stopping, and so on.

Find a Fitness Partner

Let’s be clear – exercising with mesothelioma is challenging. You’ll be frustrated by symptom flare-ups and your overall lack of energy. Nobody fully understands unless they’re experiencing it themselves. That’s why it’s a good idea to get a fitness partner who also has mesothelioma.

Connect with mesothelioma support groups or cancer survivor communities, where you can find motivation, advice, and shared experiences from individuals who have integrated exercise into their cancer journey. Better yet, find someone who has a similar schedule to you and can work alongside you.

Perform Low-Impact Exercises


There are certain types of exercise that will be more beneficial for you than others. The best types of exercise for people with mesothelioma are low-impact activities that are easy on the joints and don’t leave you gasping for breath. Good options include swimming, water aerobics, walking, resistance band training, yoga, and Tai Chi.

Focus on Breathing

Consult with a respiratory therapist or physical therapist for breathing exercises designed to improve lung capacity and reduce breathlessness. Pay attention to your breathing technique during all forms of exercise, ensuring you maintain a steady and controlled breath to prevent overexertion.

Fight Back With Fitness

In the moment, exercise doesn’t always feel good – particularly when your lungs are operating at a less-than-capacity. But when you zoom out and look at it from a big-picture perspective, it’s clear that exercising regularly has a positive long-term benefit on your overall health. With your doctor’s permission, lean in to exercise as much as possible!

About Nina Smith