Regular exercise is an important part of being as healthy as you can be. More and more research is showing that exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back (recurrence) if you’ve been diagnosed. Exercise is safe during and after all breast cancer treatments — as long as you take any needed precautions and keep the intensity low — and improves physical functioning, quality of life, and cancer-related fatigue. There also is evidence that exercise can help breast cancer survivors live longer and lead a more active life.
- You can lower your risk of breast cancer returning by maintaining a healthy weight.
- You may be able to reduce your side effects from treatment, like nausea, blood clots, constipation, fatigue, and low sex drive.
- You’ll have more energy and less fatigue by helping your heart and lungs work more efficiently.
- You’ll have better movement by carefully stretching your arms and shoulders after surgery.
- You’ll have more muscle and be stronger.
- You’ll keep your bones healthy through weight-bearing exercise like jogging, walking, or strength training.
- You’ll feel better about yourself through the brain chemicals released during exercise.
- You’ll fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply.
- You’ll feel less stressed because of the endorphins your body produces.
How to Exercise Safely
- Get the OK from your doctors/surgeon before starting. Ask if there are movements you should avoid. Tell them what medicines you are taking and other medical conditions you may have.
- If you have lymphedema, talk to a lymphedema specialist. You may need a compression garment or protective gloves. If something doesn’t feel right, stop.
- Warm up! Before you do any exercise, take 5-10 minutes to walk or stretch.
- Expect to improve gradually. Don’t compare your progress to anyone else’s. Give yourself the time you need to get strong, flexible, and healthy.
- Stop if you feel pain. Talk to your doctor or trainer about possible modifications.
- Rest as needed – take the day off if you need to!
- Cool down afterwards by walking 5-10 minutes and stretching.
- Tell your instructor before class that you’re in treatment or a survivor so that they can help you modify the exercises.
How to Stick to an Exercise Routine
- Make it fun! If you like to be around people, take a class or sign up for a walking club. If you’re happier alone, trying walking or hiking in a park or location with a nice view.
- Switch up what you do so you don’t get bored. Walk one day and lift light weights the next. Ride a bike, dance, take a yoga class — doing anything is better than doing nothing.
- Make exercise social. If you make a commitment to exercise with someone else, you’re more likely to stick to it than if you’re just working out alone.
- Make exercise a priority. Think of exercising as a necessary part of life, like breathing, sleeping, and eating. It’s what you do to be as healthy as you can be. Put it in your daily planner!
- Exercise first thing in the morning. If you exercise in the morning, you’re more likely to stick to your routine, according to some studies. Also, you’re energized for the day ahead.
- Exercise on your way home from work. If you can’t exercise first thing in the morning, working out on your way home from work is the next best thing.
- Exercise even when you think you’re too tired. You’ll probably feel better and more energized afterward.
- Keep an exercise journal. Write down the exercise statistics that are important to you: how long, how far, how many reps you did, etc. Seeing your progress can help keep you motivated.
- Reward yourself. Set some goals and as you achieve them, reward yourself. When you’re able to walk for 30 minutes without stopping, you might buy yourself a new pair of walking shoes.
- Be flexible. If you’re truly too busy or feel run down, take a break. The important thing is to get back on track as soon as you can.
Forge offers many different types of exercise classes each month. You can look for upcoming events on our calendar, like a walk around the Forge neighborhood or stretching, or go to our YouTube channel to play videos from past classes.