Exercise and rest

There is evidence to show that exercise can help your body to work at its best when you are living with a brain tumour[1]. Exercise can improve strength, fitness, mood and general wellbeing. But exercise isn’t always straightforward when you have a brain tumour.


The brain controls voluntary movement, balance and gait, all essential elements of physical activity. When the brain’s occipital lobe is affected, some vision can be lost as well, making mobility more difficult. In addition, therapies can cause fatigue, dizziness, weakness and lack of balance, making the situation worse. And long-term use of steroids, which may be given to counteract chemotherapy side-effects, also cause muscle wasting.

So exercise may be particularly difficult for some people living with a brain tumour. Equally though, exercise may bring the greatest benefit. The most important thing is to do what works for you. For many, walking is easy to build into daily activity. Others choose yoga, workouts in the gym, cycling, swimming or sports.

If you have a disability that limits your movement, try some of these exercises curated by Dom Thorpe, founder of Disability Training.

If balance is a problem, exercises can be done whilst sitting down. You could practice standing while lightly holding on to a kitchen worktop or heavy piece of furniture. Let go of it intermittently, but stay close enough so you can grab onto it again if you need it.

Exercise in short sessions for three to five minutes a few times a day, rather than longer single sessions.

Add gentle stretching exercises to your regimen. Yoga is great for building strength and for relaxation.

Don’t underestimate the benefits of going for a walk. The payback is huge, but pace yourself. If you haven’t been for a walk for a while, set a realistic goal of five minutes, gradually increasing the time until you are walking for thirty minutes. Walking will help you to:

  • maintain a healthy weight
  • increase your energy levels
  • prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
  • strengthen your bones and muscles
  • improve your mood
  • improve your balance and coordination

[1] Ruden, E. et al. (2011). Exercise behavior, functional capacity, and survival in adults with malignant recurrent glioma. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 29(21), pp. 2918–2923


The antithesis of exercise. What does rest look like for you? It means different things for different people and is never a case of one size fits all. Rest is important. It stops you getting to the point of exhaustion so that you have to stop what you are doing, regardless of what you are doing. Planning for rest is a critical part of managing your condition. By planning your activities, you can plan to rest too. Only you know what type of rest break works for you, for how long and when. It could be:

  • a few short rests, or power naps
  • one longer rest at the same time each day
  • resting between activities.

Try not to nap after 3 p.m. and only nap for up to twenty minutes. The quality of rest is key. Try to make your rest as complete as possible. This means aiming to switch of your mind and body and, more importantly, asking those around you to understand how valuable this time is for you. You need to be quiet and undisturbed.

Online fitness for people with a brain tumour

CUFitterXtra is a 12 week online programme for people affected by cancer or a brain tumour. Operated by Cancer United, CUFitterXtra matches you with specialist trainers who are experienced working with people living with a cancer diagnosis and/or preparing, undergoing or recovering from oncology treatment.

brainstrust has teamed up with the Cancer United team to bring this programme to people living with a brain tumour diagnosis.

What does the programme involve?

At a total price of £60, you get access to the following:

  • Initial 12 week online video fitness programme
  • Tailored classes to suit you
  • Initial online consultation to place you in the right programme
  • 1 new video sent by email every week for 12 weeks
  • Mid-programme assessment online consultation
  • Online helpdesk to answer any questions or issues

The programme offers flexibility so that you can adapt the programme in a way that works best for you and your diagnosis:

  • Exercise from the safety of your own home
  • Access your weekly video at a time that works for you
  • Exercise with the video as many times as you want

Fill out the form below to register your interest

To register your interest, enter your details below and a member of the brainstrust support team will get in touch to guide you through the next steps of signing up for the CUFitterXtra programme.

We will also invite you to join our regular online CUFitterXtra buddies group, should you wish to connect with others completing their own programme and perhaps find an accountability buddy. We are here to cheer you on every step of the way!

Please note, the CUFitterXtra service is only available to patients that have or have had a brain tumour, it’s not available to caregivers or loved ones.

Did this information make you feel more resourced, more confident or more in control?


The Brain Tumour Data Dashboard lets you explore up -to-date, population level data about the brain tumours diagnosed in England between 2013 and 2015. Using the drop down menus on the left you can select different groups of patients to view in the charts below. In these charts the number of patients for every 100 diagnoses is displayed as images of people. Patients have been grouped by date of diagnosis, type of tumour, age, gender, and region in England.

For each group of patients you can explore the different routes to diagnosis, the proportion of those who received chemotherapy or radiotherapy, as well as the survival of the patients within each group. For more information about what these metrics mean please see the glossary.

How to use

  1. Select the year of diagnosis using the drop down menu.
  2. Select your patient group of interest from the four drop down menus in the following order:
    1. Tumour group
    2. Age at diagnosis
    3. Region of England
    4. Gender of patient
  3. To view a second chart to compare different groups of patients, click the ‘compare’ button.The second chart will appear below the first chart.

*Note that the tool is best used on a laptop or tablet rather than a mobile phone*

Unavailable data

Some of the data in these charts is not available.There are two main reasons for this:

  1. How the data has been grouped

If you cannot select a patient group from the drop down menus, the data is unavailable because of how the data has been organised.

Public Health England has grouped the data like a branching tree. The bottom of the tree contains all the patients with brain tumours, and then each branch divides the data by a certain characteristics, like age, or location of tumour. But the data is divided in an order, starting with location of the tumour (endocrine or brain), then by age, region, and gender. Age is at the start because it makes a bigger difference to survival rates and treatment rates than gender or region. Sometimes, after the data has been split by type of tumour and age, there is not enough data to be split again. This is because to protect patient confidentiality groups cannot contain less than 100 patients. Because some groups cannot be split further, you cannot create ‘totals’ for everyone by region or gender. For example, you cannot see results for all ages by region, or all brain tumours by gender. If these totals were calculated and released, it might be possible to identify patients, which is why Public Health England cannot release this data.

  1. Statistical reasons and data availability

If you can select a patient group from the chart menus, but the chart does not display, the data is unavailable for one of several reasons:

  1. Data is not yet available for the selected year from Public Health England.
  2. Data is not available because the data quality is too poor to release this statistic.
  3. Data is not available as the statistic is not appropriate for this group.
  4. Data is not available because the standard error of the estimate was greater than 20% and so the estimate has been supressed.

Up to date brain tumour data

Brain tumour data may influence the decisions you make about your care. Data also helps you understand the bigger picture, or landscape, in which you find yourself.

Brain tumour data and statistics influence the focus, and work of organisations like brainstrust. The information helps us to understand the scale and impact of the problems we are setting out to solve.

This tool helps you understand the landscape in which you find yourself having been diagnosed with a brain tumour. This landscape can be particularly tricky to navigate as there are many different types of brain tumour, all of which have a different impact.

The information you see represents the most up-to-date, official, population level brain tumour data available for England. Over time we will be adding to the brain tumour data available and publishing reports, with recommendations, as a result of what we learn from this data.

The data behind this content has come from Public Health England’s National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS) and is a direct result of the ‘Get Data Out’ project.

This project provides anonymised population level brain tumour data for public use in the form of standard output tables, accessible here: http://cancerdata.nhs.uk/standardoutput


The number or rate (per head of population) of new cases of a disease diagnosed in a given population during a specified time period (usually a calendar year). The crude rate is the total number of cases divided by the mid-year population, usually expressed per 100,000 population.


Malignant tumours which grow by invasion into surrounding tissues and have the ability to metastasise to distant sites


The number or rate (per head of population) of deaths in a given population during a specified time period (usually a calendar year). The crude rate is the total number of deaths divided by the mid-year population, usually expressed per 100,000 population.


Not cancerousNon-malignant tumours may grow larger but do not spread to other parts of the body.


The length of time from the date of diagnosis for a disease, such as cancer, that patients diagnosed with the disease are still alive. In a clinical trial, measuring the survival is one way to see how well a new treatment works. Also called ‘overall survival’ or ‘OS’.

Routes to Diagnosis

Under the ‘Routes to Diagnosis’ tab in the Brain Tumour Data Dashboard, you can explore the ways patients have been diagnosed with brain tumours. There are many ways, or routes, for cancers to be diagnosed in the NHS. A ‘route to diagnosis’ is the series of events between a patient and the healthcare system that leads to a diagnosis of cancer. The routes include:

  1. Two Week Wait

Patients are urgently referred by their GP for suspected cancer via the Two Week Wait system and are seen by a specialist within 2 weeks where they are diagnosed.

  1. GP referral

Diagnosis via a GP referral includes routine and urgent referrals where the patient was not referred under the Two Week Wait system.

  1. Emergency Presentation

Cancers can be diagnosed via emergency situations such as via A&E, emergency GP referral, emergency transfer or emergency admission.

  1. Outpatient

Outpatient cancer diagnoses include diagnoses via an elective route which started with an outpatient appointment that is either a self-referral or consultant to consultant referral. (It does not include those under the Two Week Wait referral system).

  1. Inpatient elective

Diagnosis via an inpatient elective route is where diagnosis occurs after the patient has been admitted into secondary care from a waiting list, or where the admission is booked or planned.

  1. Death Certificate Only

Diagnoses made by Death Certificate Only are made where there is no more information about the cancer diagnosis other than the cancer related death notifications. The date of diagnosis is the same as that of the date of death.

  1. Unknown

For some patients with a cancer diagnosis, there is no relevant data available to understand the route to diagnosis.


More information

If any of the statistical terms in this section of the brainstrust website are hard to understand, we recommend looking them up here:

Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Statistics Explained


If you are looking for help understanding terms relating specifically to brain tumours, and treatment, then the brainstrust glossary is available here: