Catching Up on Z’s: 5 Tips for Exercising to Cope with Cancer-Related Insomnia and Fatigue

You don’t have to be tired all the time just because you have breast cancer. In anticipation of our Wednesday, July 20 Twitter Chat, Oncology Exercise Specialist Sami Mansfield shares tips to help you get moving to cope with fatigue.

sami_cancer wellness for life

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve cancer-related fatigue and insomnia.  While you may feel like resting when you are tired, know that even a little movement will help you physically and mentally. After a cancer diagnosis, most patients decrease their exercise and physical activity due to not feeling well, having other obligations such as appointments and often because of emotions such as anxiety and depression.

Lack of physical activity leads to a loss of lean muscle tissue which is most often strength muscle (versus aerobic muscle) and makes  activities such as stairs, grocery shopping and laundry more exhausting. It is important to keep exercising at an appropriate level for you and to prioritize strength building exercises such as chair based leg lifts, arm curls and shoulder presses to keep your muscle mass.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Small bouts of movement provide quick endorphins that will help  you feel better quickly. Set your timer for 5-minute sessions to get started and work by adding one minute per week.
  2. Try to exercise when you have the highest energy but if that varies, find a regular time based on your pre-diagnosis body clock.
  3. Put an appointment on your calendar and set a reminder.
  4. Use chair based strengthening to get started. Use your body weight only or add some small items such as soup cans.
  5. Put on some music that you enjoy. It doesn’t need to be fast but allows you to focus on moving rather than sitting and watching TV.
  6. Write down your goals and “why’s” for exercise, read these often to remind yourself why it is important.

Want more tips on coping with sleep problems? Join Sami and our tweeps on Wednesday, July 20 at 8 p.m. (ET) for our Twitter Chat Catching Up on Z’s: Coping With Cancer-Related Insomnia and Fatigue. Use #LBBCChat to follow along or join the conversation!


Sami Mansfield is an oncology exercise specialist and the patient wellness program development manager for the University of Kansas Cancer Center, an NCI cancer center in Kansas City, KS. Sami runs her own organization helping people through Cancer Wellness for Life. Sami sees first hand the importance of exercise to reduce side effects, maintain strength and the ability to withstand and recover from aggressive treatments and surgeries. 

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