Evidence continues to mount that exercise is beneficial for breast cancer survivors during and after treatment. Numerous studies suggest that exercise not only helps lessen the side effects of treatment, but may also help prevent cancer recurrence.
In addition to the knowledge that exercise is all-around good for you anyway, research has shown that exercising during cancer treatment, as long as your doctor clears you for it, can improve lots of things. For example, regular exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight and stay strong, which will be very important as your body fights off this disease.
There is also evidence that patients who exercise during treatment experience fewer and less severe side effects from treatment. Decreased nausea, increased blood flow, better digestive and less fatigue are some of the positive benefits you’ll see if you exercise regularly during treatment.
Doctors have noted that patients who exercise have healthier bones, sleep better, feel positive and are more confident about themselves and their treatment.
The most positive benefit may be: In a time full of uncertainty, exercise helps to reduce stress. Isn’t this the time you need the least amount of stress possible in your life?
What Kind of Exercise Is Best?
First thing’s first. Check with your doctor to make sure you are physically healthy enough to exercise. Ask what types of exercise they recommend for you. It will likely be a combination of aerobic and flexibility exercises.
Aerobic exercises like walking, jogging or swimming will help get your heart rate up, get your blood moving better through your system and will help strengthen your body.
Flexibility exercises like yoga, tai chi or Pilates will help relax you and keep your body toned.
Resistance exercises that include lifting weights may also be recommended, but if you’ve recently undergone surgery, your physician may ask you to hold off on these until you are well healed.
Use a Cautious Approach or Jump Right In?
Again, this depends on what your doctor recommends. For some women who’ve always been active, not much – if anything at all – may change regarding exercise habits and activity levels. If you’re just starting to exercise in order to take initiative in your own treatment, your doctor might recommend starting off slow, depending on your health, and working up from there.
Active Living After Breast Cancer
For anyone interested, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic and the Kelsey Research Foundation, in partnership with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Neighborhood Centers Inc. are piloting a 12-session program called “Active Living After Breast Cancer” to help improve the quality of life of breast cancer survivors. All breast cancer survivors in the community who have finished treatment and engage in less than two-and-a-half hours of moderate physical activity per week may be eligible for the program. Refer to the Kelsey Research Foundation website for information.
Dr. Jamise Crooms is an Internal Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. She’s accepting new adult patients at Meyerland Plaza Clinic. She considers educating patients about their health as key to patients making informed decisions.