Exercise as Part of Breast Cancer Recovery

Posted on November 20, 2019

Written By: Megan DeLuca, MEd, CPT, PTS Fitness Blogger

Cancer is a serious matter. It is second only to heart disease as Americans’ leading cause of death. Of those cases, many will be invasive breast cancer. While these statistics are eye-opening, nearly half of these new cancers can be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes. In fact, some of them are caused by a combination of excess body weight, physical inactivity, poor nutrition, and excess alcohol intake. So, the work that fitness professionals are doing today may be helping to prevent clients from developing cancer in the first place and exercise has also been proven to reduce the likelihood of recurrence.

For those who do receive a cancer diagnosis, fitness professionals can make a difference – by encouraging these clients to engage in regular exercise and healthier eating before, during and after treatment.

The list of benefits of regular, appropriate exercise for people during and after cancer treatment includes but is not limited to:

  • Improved quality of life
  • Improved functional ability with everyday tasks
  • Improved balance for fall prevention
  • Improved weight management
  • Improved body image and self-esteem
  • Improved blood flow and reduced risk of blood clots
  • Improved flow/drainage in the lymphatic system
  • Improved efficacy of certain cancer treatments
  • Reduced fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Reduced risk of osteoporosis (bone weakening) and sarcopenia (muscle wasting)
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes

Research shows that aerobic exercise provides more benefits to cancer patients and survivors than resistance training and other modalities; however, because of the increased risk of osteoporosis for many of these clients, strength training (specifically bone-building exercises) should also be encouraged.

The design of an exercise program for a breast cancer patient or survivor will likely change as their needs will often vary from session to session or even minute to minute. Which is why it is so important to also know the signs for when it’s time to stop or not even start an exercise session or program. These should be discussed with a doctor or fitness professional.

In conclusion, it is important that the appropriate assessments and evaluations relevant to each individual breast cancer patient be performed prior to working with a survivor or current patient. And with proper programming, adaptability, and progression, regular exercise can result in clients/patients becoming stronger than they were prior to their cancer diagnosis while also reducing recurrence. Great reasons to keep moving!