If you have breast cancer, or are a breast cancer survivor – you should be exercising regularly. Here’s 6 reasons why.

Emily Sando, Accredited Exercise Physiologist

Happy Women’s Health Week 2019! This year I’m focusing on my top 6 reasons why breast cancer sufferers and survivors should be exercising.

  1. In 2018 COSA (Clinical Oncology Society of Australia) declared exercise as part of standard practice for cancer care and for it to be prioritised as an adjunct therapy to help combat the negative effects of cancer and cancer treatment. We have come a long way from ‘bed rest’ and the research is now supporting the notion that exercise can help you through your treatment. If your oncologist is recommending it, then it really should be something to consider right?
  2. For breast cancer survivors - There is large evidence showing that those who exercise regularly are 24% less likely to have the cancer return!
  3. Bone mineral density. Cancer treatment is very harsh on the body, and unfortunately one of the downsides is that it breaks down our bones, putting us at a higher risk of osteoporosis. The good news is that resistance training (weight training exercise) can help reduce this side effect.
  4. Exercise can help to manage cancer related fatigue, and help improve sleep quality.
  5. Exercise can reduce the risk of lymphoedema. It’s also a great way to increase mobility post surgery or reconstruction.
  6. Physical activity can help with your mood, and depending on what you do, can also help with social isolation. Exercise is known for it’s mood-boosting effects, so consider going for a walk with a friend if you are having a down day.

 Is there a risk involved with exercising during treatment?

There are a couple of points to be mindful of, particularly when receiving chemotherapy.

  1. Your immune system is likely compromised. This means that exercising at home might be the best option, or otherwise being careful with infection control at the gym. This means wiping down equipment before you use it, and being mindful of people who are sharing the space with you. I also wouldn’t recommend exercising in a public pool due to the risk of infection.
  2. Risk of fracture. If your bone mineral density has decreased, you may be at risk of fractures. I recommend seeing an Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist who can assess your safety with exercise before starting a program. Be mindful if you are walking outside of any tripping/falling hazards.

Still not convinced? Have a google of ABC’s Catalyst that looks at “cancer & exercise” for a great video explaining how exercise can help.

If you want to know more about what type of exercise is best, and how much to do, it’s best to have an Exercise Physiology assessment to get the right program tailored for you.

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