While many people are aware of breast cancer, many may not know how nutrition and physical activity fit in. In celebration of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we will be highlighting healthy practices for patients and survivors of breast cancer.
Regular cardiovascular exercise and a gradual progression of resistance training provide both emotional and physiological benefits to those in treatment and recovery from breast cancer.
Numerous studies, notably the landmark Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, promote physical activity to lower the risk of diagnosis and recurrence of breast cancer.
Managing weight, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and keeping stress in check, can protect from many diseases. But just as importantly, staying active can help fight and manage these conditions. Maintaining fitness prior to a diagnosis may create a higher tolerance to surgery and medications and an easier road to recovery.
Physical activity may leave breast cancer patients feeling more relaxed. It may even help ease nausea associated with cancer treatment. Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to tissues and helps the cardiovascular systems work more efficiently. When the heart and lungs are strong, patients and survivors feel more energetic. Joining a group fitness class can help with accountability and provide much needed social interaction with others facing similar issues.
The return to exercise after surgery will vary by individual. Consult your healthcare provider for safe exercise guidelines, including knowledge of the signs and symptoms of lymphedema.
A safe and effective fitness program may include walking or an elliptical trainer, body-weight training and flexibility or range of motion exercises.
Get started with these basic stretches for the arm, shoulder, chest wall and armpit.
Fingertip Wall Walk
- Shoulder Range of Motion (ROM) – 3-5 per arm
- Stand sideways, an arm’s length from a wall
- Gently reach for the wall
- Slowly walk fingers up the wall
- Turn and repeat other side
- Arm and Shoulder ROM – 30 seconds each
- Bend forward at the waist, chest parallel to the floor
- Rest 1 hand on a table or back of chair
- Allow other arm to hang loosely from shoulder
- Slowly swing arm side – to – side
- Slowly swing arm front –to – back
- Slowly swing arm in clock-wise circle
- Slowly swing arm in counter clock-wise circle
- Repeat w/ other arm
- Shoulder, Chest Wall, Armpit ROM – 3-5 walks per arm
- Place the fingers of one hand on ear, with elbow pointed away
- Walk fingers across the top of the head to opposite ear
- Walk back to start
- Repeat on other side