Walking Guidelines for People with Cancer to Use at Home (The James)

Walking Guidelines for People with Cancer to Use at Home (The James)


Exercise, such as walking, is a way to stay active and help reduce some side effects of cancer and cancer treatments.

Exercise may help:

  • Decrease fatigue
  • Boost your energy level
  • Increase your sense of well-being
  • Relieve stress and tension
  • Make your muscles stronger
  • You sleep better

General Walking Guidelines

These guidelines are to help you stay active during your cancer treatment.

  • Ask your doctor if it is all right for you to exercise and if you need to follow any special precautions.
  • Check with your doctor to see if it is safe for you to exercise if you have low blood cell counts.
  • If your white blood cell count is low, you are at a higher risk for infection. Talk with your doctor to see if it okay for you to exercise in places where there are many people (health clubs, gyms and shopping malls).


Getting Started

  • Before you start walking, set a goal for how far or how long you will try to walk.
  • Start walking every day, even if just for a few minutes.
  • As you get stronger, slowly increase your walking time during each session. Work up to walking 30 to 60 minutes a day.
  • Decrease the time, distance or how long you walk if you:
    • Become very tired while walking.
    • Feel very tired or fatigued 1 hour after walking.
  • To measure the effort you put into walking, you can use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale at the end of this handout.


Track Your Efforts

Write down your walking times on the Exercise Log in this handout to help you see your progress. You may want to make copies of the log so you will have extra pages to track your walking.


Important Information

You should STOP exercising and rest if you feel:

  • Dizzy or lightheaded
  • Short of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure in your chest
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that does not go away
  • Abnormal pulse or heart beat

If you have any of these symptoms, stop the exercise and rest. Get medical help if your symptoms do not go away.


More Information

For more information on this topic, see the patient education handouts:

  • Cancer Therapy Managing Side Effects: Fatigue
  • Using Exercise to Fight Cancer-Related Fatigue
  • Tips for a Successful Exercise Program

* Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

RPE Scale

This tells how you feel when you are exercising. Choose a number between 0 and 10 to rate how much effort you had to use.

The lowest number 0 means no effort to exercise. A 5 means you had to use strong effort to exercise.

Try to exercise around a RPE level of 6 and no higher.

0 No effort

1 Light effort

2 Light effort

3 Moderate effort

4 Moderate effort

5 Strong effort

6 Strong effort

7 Very strong effort

8 Very strong effort

9 Very, very strong

10 Maximum                                effort    


Date/Time              *RPE (1-10)Length of Time WalkingDistance WalkedNotes                


© January 20, 2021. The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or health care team if you have any questions about your care.

For more health information, call the Patient and Family Resource Center at 614-366-0602 or visit cancer.osu.edu/PFRC