Research over the past decade has uncovered an amazingly effective and simple way for women with breast cancer to reduce their risk of recurrence by up to 40%… and the best part is the side effects include less fatigue, more energy, a trimmer waistline, improved mood and a healthy heart. What wonder drug does this? Guess again! The answer is right inside your sneakers –walking! Since this study was published in 2005, a tremendous amount of research and community based programs have popped up encouraging women to get out and walk for their wellness.
The new paradigm for cancer survivors highlights the importance of staying active to help reduce cancer related fatigue, pain and other side effects of the disease and treatments, as well as promote survivorship. In the old days, cancer patients were told to rest and avoid exercise – now hospitals and community groups are offering yoga, pilates, Qi Gong, strength training, cardiovascular and many other types of group exercise classes or one on one personal training sessions. It is well established that staying active is safe and can help to improve quality of life even during treatment.
Exercise offers many benefits:Preserving muscle mass
- Combating weight gain during treatment
- Boost fitness levels, muscle strength and flexibility
- Women who worked out during chemotherapy had less delays or dose reductions during their treatment course compared to women who were sedentary
Moderate exercise is suggested for providing the most benefits:
- Intense exercise or “over training” can actually suppress the immune system.
- It is important to adjust exercise intensity and duration so that you are active without overdoing it.
- Going for 3, 10 minute walks can be just as effective as going for one, 30 minute walk.
- Start off slowly and build up your intensity and duration of exercise gradually.
- Taking some days off or scaling back is also important to balance activity and rest.
- Yoga has also received a lot of attention for its helpfulness in reducing anxiety, stress and depression in women with breast cancer.
- Exercise isn’t just good for survivors. According to the National Cancer Institute, exercising for at least four hours a week can also help to prevent breast cancer by lowering hormone levels.
- This reduced risk seems to be greatest for women who are pre-menopausal and at a healthy weight.
It is always important to speak with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
To find a community based fitness program that focuses on breast cancer in your area try these resources:
The Pink Program at your local YMCA – created by exercise experts Josie Garnder and Joy Prouty.
Dragon Boat racing – an international movement offered in many areas across the US.
Livestrong exercise programs at the YMCA – fitness classes designed specifically for cancer survivors
Making Strides Against Breast Cancer – run by the American Cancer Society
Avon Walk for Breast Cancer – 2 day walk in cities across the US