When you’re undergoing breast cancer treatment, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. Moving your body, however, can help you feel better physically and mentally and experience better treatment outcomes.
Regular exercise is recommended for nearly everyone. Experts suggest that most adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week for optimal health. When you aren’t feeling your best, though, getting even that 22 minutes a day of exercise can feel a little overwhelming.
If you find yourself in that situation, try simply moving your body in any way for any amount of time. It can make a big difference in how you feel.
The Benefits of Being Physically Active
You probably know that exercise offers many benefits for overall health. Those benefits are magnified when you’re undergoing breast cancer treatment.
Continuing to incorporate physical activity into your days while undergoing treatment can help you limit or avoid some short- and long-term side effects of cancer treatment, help you feel mentally stronger and less anxious or stressed, give you a mood boost, and help limit fatigue.
The benefits go beyond that, too. Research has found that women who were physically active before being diagnosed with breast cancer as well as during and after treatment were less likely to have a cancer recurrence or to die due to the disease.
Staying Active During Breast Cancer Treatment
If you were committed to an exercise regimen before your breast cancer diagnosis, you might need to change things up. Even if you regularly took long runs or lifted heavy weights, those activities may be too strenuous for you now.
If any amount of activity seems like too much at the moment, hitting the reset button on what you consider exercise is a good place to begin. Exercise doesn’t need to take a long time or be strenuous. Simply moving your body is enough.
What does that look like? An exercise regimen during breast cancer will look different for every person, and it may evolve depending on what stage of treatment or healing you’re in.
Consider these activities to get you moving in a low-impact way:
Take a walk.
Walk up and down the stairs.
Swim or do basic aerobic movements in a pool.
Use a rowing machine.
Do a yoga or Pilates workout.
Perform basic strength-training movements, like squats or bicep curls.
Each of the activities listed can be modified depending on how you’re feeling. On days when you don’t have a ton of mojo, your walk might be confined to around the kitchen and down the hallway. Other days, you might take a walk around the house, the block or even a local trail.
Listen to your body and tailor your activity based on your needs, remembering that any activity is a good thing.
Fit in Bursts of Movement
Certain phases of treatment may hit you harder than others. If you aren’t feeling up to a workout at all, simply moving can benefit your health.
On those days, focus on getting up from the bed or the chair every so often. Even a few minutes of standing or walking can give you an energy and mood boost.
Also remember what we said about reframing what exercise looks like—normal, everyday activities are physical activity in and of themselves. When you’re taking a few minutes to clean the kitchen or spending some time pulling weeds in the garden, you’re exercising.
Even a good everyday stretch helps. In fact, stretching regularly can help increase the flow of oxygenated blood to your muscles and tissues throughout the body. This, in turn, promotes healing from the effects of breast cancer and breast cancer treatments, such as surgery and radiation.
Movement does the body good, so do what you can when you can. Your health will thank you.
Learn more about breast cancer care at St. Luke’s Health.