Sport and exercise Living with CML
  1. Sport and exercise

Sport and exercise

The following section provides information about exercise and sports for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Questions we try to answer are:

  • Why is it good to exercise/play sports?
  • Is it safe to play sports/exercise? 
  • What kind of sports/forms of exercise can I do? 
  • Where can I go for expert guidance or physical therapy?

Why is it good to exercise/play sports?

It is important to remain active after being diagnosed with CML or to start exercising or playing sports even more. Because of the CML, you may get tired more quickly or feel less inclined to start exercising. This leads to less exercise, which can cause a downward spiral that you should interrupt before it starts.

To break this spiral, it is good to know what you can do, whether this is safe and where you can go for proper support. The importance of continued exercise in patients with cancer in all phases of their healthcare process is increasingly supported by scientific research. Everyone in the Netherlands knows the Alp d'HuZes cycling event, for example, which raises money for research into exercise programs for cancer patients. Little scientific research has been done on the effect of sports and exercise for CML patients. Research into exercising with acute leukemia teaches us, for example, that following an exercise program can be done safely and has a positive effect on fatigue, physical performances, and stress. We also know from other types of cancer that the better shape you are in, the better you can handle the treatment (better in, better out).

In short, exercise and sports are important and they are a part of the treatment that you can influence yourself.

Is it safe to play sports and exercise?

In principle, with CML, daily exercise such as walking and cycling (preferably longer than 30 minutes) is always good to do. When you do something that you like, such as taking a long walk with the dog, the chance that you can keep it up is much greater. If you want to follow a fitness and strength fitness program with a physical therapist, it is always good to discuss this with your hematologist. It is important to know is whether any other conditions play a role in your trainability (cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, diabetes, etc.) and whether, for example, your blood values allow you to follow a training program. You may first have to do an exercise test to determine whether you can train safely and at what level.

What kind of sports/forms of exercise can I do?

As mentioned earlier, it is especially important that you look for something you like. Perhaps you are already active, and a member of a sports club. In that case, it is important to continue this. It is also good to work on improving your fitness and your strength through exercises. Nowadays there are specialized oncology physical therapists and exercise programs that allow you to train under expert supervision.

Where can I go for expert guidance or physical therapy?

  • Everyone is familiar with specialized physical therapy such as a manual therapist or sports therapist. The oncology physical therapist specialization is less well known. To become such a therapist, a physical therapist will follow a 3-year master training. The network of oncology physical therapists is becoming increasingly extensive. The oncology physical therapist focuses on the different phases of the rehabilitation process and oncological care. The NVFL website has a search engine to find a specialized oncology physical therapist in your area.

    Find a specialized oncology physical therapist in your area

  • The Dutch provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg have a network of oncology physical therapists: Fyneon

    Use the Fyneon network to find an oncology physical therapist

  • In the past, the Recovery and Balance program was used for oncology rehabilitation in a multidisciplinary setting. This formula no longer exists; its elements have been incorporated into regular care. The list of oncology rehabilitation providers can still be found on the recovery and balance website

    Search for rehabilitation programs in your city or town

  • For individual support and customized exercise programs, visit


  • If you have specific questions about exercising, training, or posture and musculoskeletal system symptoms, your treating hematologist can give you a referral to the physical therapist at the hospital.