Staying Active as a Senior with Mesothelioma

Staying Active as a Senior with Mesothelioma

Maintaining physical fitness is a challenge for many seniors. Even seniors in good health struggle to keep up with regular exercise, often because life and health events interrupt attempts at maintaining a fitness routine.

Staying active is especially challenging for seniors coping with a serious disease like mesothelioma. This asbestos-related cancer most often grows around the lungs and greatly impairs lung function.

Mesothelioma tumors pressing against a lung cause breathing difficulties, which inhibit a person’s ability to withstand cardiovascular exercise.

The cancer can cause muscle and nerve pain in the arms, shoulder and chest, which can limit the ability to lift weights, use resistance bands and exercise on hard surfaces.

Fatigue and muscle loss are common among seniors with mesothelioma, which can make it difficult to engage in physical activities.

Despite the physical challenges of mesothelioma, seniors can maintain various levels of activity as they live with the cancer and undergo different treatments.

Maintaining physical activity can improve quality of life for people with mesothelioma, and it may improve certain mesothelioma symptoms, such as fatigue.

Tips to Stay Active While Living with Mesothelioma

People who are diagnosed in the early stages of mesothelioma and undergo multimodal treatment often live longer than three years with mesothelioma. Once these patients recover from surgery and chemotherapy, they can slowly begin to increase physical activity.

The majority is diagnosed in stage III or IV, and they live longer than one year. Some late-stage patients are living longer than three years by joining clinical trials to get access to innovative therapies that help to improve their prognosis.

Seniors with mesothelioma who find ways to remain physically active tend to feel better than those who don’t exercise. They often recover from cancer treatments quicker and some experience fewer or reduced side effects.

The following tips may help people with mesothelioma understand the kinds of activity they can safely do and how much is appropriate. It is important to discuss your physical activity with your oncologist to make sure you’re doing a healthy amount of exercise.

  • Strenuous and time-consuming exercise routines are not advised for seniors with mesothelioma.
  • Try gentle activities that focus on range of motion movements such as yoga, qigong and active stretching.
  • Light impact cardio exercise, such as walking, biking and swimming, is generally safe for cancer patients in otherwise good health.
  • If cardio exercise is challenging because of breathing difficulty or another physical limitation, try chair yoga, lifting one- or two-pound weights or a simple range of motion movements.
  • Start with five to 10 minutes of exercise and slowly work your way up to 30 minutes. It’s OK if you can only withstand five or 10 minutes, and don’t progress to 30 minutes. A little exercise is better than none.
  • Gently warm up and cool down your body with simple movements and stretches, or by walking, before and after aerobic exercise.
  • People who are recovering from surgery or chemotherapy can stretch in bed and slowly work their way up to walking around the house.
  • Physical therapy helps patients rehabilitate muscles and bodily function after surgery. The exercises are tailored to each patient’s unique patterns of muscle weakness and tension.

Innovative and targeted therapies are helping people to live longer with mesothelioma than in the past. There is motivation to maintain physical fitness. It will help you feel better in your body, boost energy and will help you recover from anticancer treatment.

If you need help staying active, reach out to family and friends for support. Ask a neighbor to take walks with you, or see if a family member will try yoga with you. Also, consider asking your oncologist about resources at your cancer center because some offer free fitness classes to seniors and cancer patients.



NIH Senior Health. (n.d.). Exercise: How to stay active. Retrieved from

NIH Senior Health. (n.d.). Exercise: Exercises to try. Retrieved from

Gilbert, H. (n.d.). Exercise guidelines for seniors and cancer patients. Retrieved from

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