Helping people with cancer Move More

During cancer treatment the advice used to be “rest is best” however we know now that rest isn’t best and that a little physical activity can play an important role in managing the side effects of treatment and making an individual feel better.

More than one in three will receive a cancer diagnosis at some stage in their lives and this can lead individuals to feel isolated and alone. It can also leave people with little energy and feeling low, but research has shown that moving a little, can really help people to reduce the tiredness they experience and manage their side-effects.

Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of cancer treatment. It’s also one of the most debilitating and often all people want to do is stay in bed.  But what we know now is that moving a little, perhaps a short, gentle walk or some gardening, won’t increase the fatigue and after treatment, it will actually help you recover from fatigue more quickly.  A little physical activity can also make individuals feel better and reduce the anxiety that is so common when going through cancer treatment.

However, for many people it isn’t as simple as getting out and getting active.  Some people may not have done any physical activity for a while (or ever) and some may be nervous about being active following a cancer diagnosis so support is needed to get started.

Recognising this need Macmillan Cancer Support has partnered up with council leisure centres across Scotland to deliver Move More, a physical activity programme for people affected by cancer.

There are already Move More programmes being run in Glasgow, Fife, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, with further programmes being set up in Dundee, North Lanarkshire, Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and Aberdeenshire and Moray within the next within year.

The Move More programme offers support to people affected by cancer to take part in a range of physical activities, offered at different levels, from gentle movement and walking to gym based classes, so that everyone can take part. Individuals can be referred by a health professional or can refer themselves.

It’s important to offer choice and a pathway for people affected by cancer to increase their physical activity levels and improve their confidence to adopt a healthier, more active lifestyle.  People often value the opportunity to meet others in a similar situation as well and make friends attending the activities.

Moving more can reduce the sense of isolation, help with managing side effects and improve strength, aerobic fitness and flexibility.  And in remission, there’s emerging evidence to suggest that physical activity can reduce the chances of the cancer coming back.

As is true for all of us, it’s not about running marathons, it’s about taking small steps to get out and be active.  Those living with and beyond cancer can take part at any stage of treatment, up to five years post diagnosis, and friends and family of those with a cancer diagnosis are also welcome to take part in some of the activities.  Each individual can take part in the different activities for up to 12 sessions.

Volunteers play a key role in the delivery of Move More, monitoring participants at each stage, and encouraging them to move on to new activities or into mainstream activities when they are ready. And we’re always delighted to hear from more volunteers wanting to make a positive difference.

A cancer diagnosis now doesn’t have to mean that rest is now best. And whilst it will often be the toughest battle any of us face, your cancer journey needn’t be faced in isolation. Joining others in a Move More programme might aid positivity, help to reduce tiredness and manage the side effects of treatment, in a supportive environment.

For support, information on your local Move More programme or if you just want to chat, call Macmillan free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or visit

By Joanna Cole-Hamilton

Joanna is a Macmillan Move More Development Officer with Edinburgh Leisure.  For more information on Move More Edinburgh please click here.