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Will physical activity/exercise not make my fatigue worse?

Some people with liver disease have reported that physical activity and/or exercise does not make their fatigue worse. Taking part in physical activity and exercise can make you feel better – not just physically, as it also holds positive benefits for reducing anxiety and depression as well as helping you to sleep better too.

What is sedentary behaviour?

Sedentary behaviour refers to any waking activity characterised by low levels of energy expenditure and a sitting or reclining posture. In general this means that any time a person is sitting or lying down, they are engaging in sedentary behaviour. Reducing the amount of time you spend being sedentary each day has multiple health benefits.


What is physical activity?

Physical activity is any body movement that requires you to use more energy than resting, and it incorporates many of the activities carried out as part of the daily routine e.g. washing the car, hoovering, walking the dog.



What is exercise?

Exercise is a subcategory of physical activity in which planned, structured and repetitive movements are performed to maintain or improve fitness. Types of exercise include:

  • aerobic (improves/maintains the fitness of your heart and lungs)
  • resistance (improves/maintains your muscle strength)
  • Pilates (improves/maintains core stability)
  • yoga (improves/maintains flexibility)


Where to start….

Think about what you normally do on a day-to-day basis at the moment (consider what you do during home/work/leisure time) – keeping a daily diary or record of your activities and exercise might help you identify any changes you might like to make to your normal routine.

Things to include and think about may be:

  • Do you spend most of the day sitting down?
  • How far can you walk? How long can you walk for?
  • Do you work? What does your work involve?
  • Do you currently use an activity monitor (e.g. a Fitbit)? What’s your average daily step count?
  • Do you do any regular exercise?
  • What have you enjoyed in the past?
  • Whatever your activity level, what are you able and willing to try?

It is worth thinking about whether your health problems restrict your activity levels as this could determine what you try to do.

Ideas for increasing physical activity
  • Walk for part of your usual route to visit family, friends, the shops or work (e.g. get off the bus 1 stop earlier)
  • Break up sitting time by standing up & walking for 1 minute every hour – if you’re sitting watching television, use the advert breaks as a prompt to stand up and move around
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Walk the dog once a day
  • Join a walking group
  • Do some gardening or mow the lawn
  • Help with the housework


Lots of short bouts of physical activity can be just as good as long periods of activity - the more done overall throughout the day, the better!

Recommendations for exercise

Lots of different activities can help improve/maintain your fitness. This could include going for a walk, gardening or playing a sport. It is important to exercise your body so you feel you are pushing yourself a little more than you do in your normal day-to-day activities. You may notice your breathing and your heart beat quickening or you may start to sweat. These are all good signs that you are working your body at the correct level, providing you feel comfortable throughout the activity.

Starting with a few minutes of a new activity and gradually increasing the time and/or intensity helps to improve your fitness without causing other problems such as muscle strains or feeling unwell.

Why is physical activity/exercise important if I have liver cancer?

One of the main symptoms of liver cancer is fatigue or tiredness.  Sometimes even your usual activities make you weary and the last thing you may want to think about is exercise. However, if you can maintain or increase your physical activity, this can help your heart and lung fitness and your muscle strength – all key to keeping you going when you have liver cancer. If you are able, doing physical activities can also provide a routine that may help you mentally as well as physically by offering opportunities to meet other people and reduce the social isolation felt by a lot of people with liver cancer.

What type of physical activity/exercise should I be doing?

It doesn’t really matter what type of physical activity or exercise people with liver cancer do – there are no specific liver cancer-related guidelines. The most important thing is to find something enjoyable that you can build into your daily routine. It can be helpful to start gently and build up gradually, both in time and intensity. Little and often is a good way to start allowing you to feel fitter without becoming too exhausted. Walking and swimming are good options and adding gentle muscle strengthening exercises can be beneficial. Performing gentle exercises in the home can also be a good way to improve fitness – this website offers some examples of exercises to start with at home.

How much should I be doing?

Try to incorporate some physical activity and/or exercise into your daily routine – the amount may depend on how you feel on a particular day. You may have good days and bad days.  Some people find that pacing activities allows them to do more, both at home and at work. It helps to plan things carefully, avoid doing too much on one day, or if you have a busy day one day, try to ensure that the next day is less busy to allow yourself to catch up.

Remember, some physical activity each day is better than none – and little and often may be key to increasing your activity levels!

Activities to do at home

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