October is National Breast Cancer Month. 


Yes, Exercise Increases the Odds of Long-Term Survival. Exercise may not be the cure for cancer, but according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, exercise reduces the risk of dying from the disease. Women who exercised on a regular basis at moderate intensity had fewer cancer recurrences and experienced a decrease in the 10-year mortality rate. The research clearly showed that women with breast cancer who are physically active live longer than women who are sedentary.

Benefits of Exercise Even If You Had Breast Cancer: Beyond living longer, many quality of life issues are greatly improved with exercise: In a study published in Psychooncology, regarding the rehabilitation of breast cancer survivors, exercise enhances immune function during chemotherapy and decreases the fatigue often associated with this type of treatment. In addition, the increase in weight and body fat associated with chemotherapy can be reduced. Not only does this boost one’s self esteem, but research by Dr. Carolyn Kaelin, Director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has shown that long-term survival rates increase for those who gain 12 pounds or less. Another benefit: Strength training with moderate resistance can attenuate the reduction in bone mass density often associated with chemotherapy.

How Much Exercise? The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity for cancer survivors. In a study of breast cancer survivors who got this recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week, women had an 11 percent lower risk of breast cancer mortality and a 24 percent lower risk overall mortality than those who were inactive.

Many women experience limited range of motion and postural changes due to mastectomies and reconstructive surgeries. Gentle flexibility exercises combined with posture awareness and balance training can improve the daily quality of life.

In instances where lymph nodes have been removed, developing and implementing an exercise program must be done with even greater care because of the need to reduce the risk of lymphedema, swelling of the arm due to poor lymphatic fluid drainage.

Proceed with Caution and Hope. All women are individuals; all cancers are different; all medical treatments are customized. All exercise programs need to be highly customized, too. The key to success is conferring with your physician during each step of the healing process. With the right resources, a comprehensive program can be developed to address cardiovascular conditioning for weight management, strength training for osteoporosis prevention, balance training for fall prevention, and flexibility training to improve range of motion and posture. A gently progressive program of exercises, along with expert guidance from your doctor and a qualified fitness professional, combined with your positive attitude can promote healing and help you live a long life.

If you’d like to share with me your story of how you conquered the Big C, I’d be honored to listen and learn. In addition if you’d like any guidance and insight on how to begin or modify your exercise program, please feel free to contact me in confidence…pro bono of course. This is a gift from me to you.