There is scientific evidence to prove that exercise can help reduce the side effects some people experience during breast cancer treatment. Regular physical activity during and after treatment can also help to restore confidence and help sufferers regain some control of their lives. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight may be beneficial to prevent recurrence of this disease and of course for overall health and well-being.
Breast cancer surgery may affect muscles by making them tight and weak; exercise can help you relearn something as simple as reaching up to the top shelf in a kitchen cupboard or it can give you back the energy and endurance needed to take the children to school. It can help counteract muscle atrophy, when the muscle wastes away. This is accelerated during chemotherapy, radiation and sedentary recovery time.
Exercise can help battle depression and fatigue because it produces natural endorphins (happy hormones) that make us feel good.
As a breast cancer survivor myself, I can vouch for the above statements. I’ve been a personal trainer since 2004 so being fit and healthy before my diagnosis in August 2007 helped me to get back on the road to recovery. Immediately after my surgery I was determined to get back on track so I started my rehabilitation exercises. I grew stronger day
by day, mentally and physically and so by the time my chemotherapy was due to start I already had the willpower to take back some control. The chemo made me generally unwell but I got to understand how and when my body reacted to it and exercised accordingly throughout. Little by little, I began boosting my immune system and improving my cardiovascular fitness, both of which were significantly compromised during the treatment.
So if you or someone you know has just been diagnosed with breast cancer or is currently having treatment here are some tips:
First and foremost, get clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise regime.
If you’re completely new to exercise start slowly and gradually to build up your strength.
Be kind to yourself; you will have days when you won’t be up to doing much at all so listen to your body.
Friends and family are your support network helping you on the road to recovery so why not also enlist an ‘exercise buddy’ to motivate and encourage you to get you moving.
Moderation is the key; working too hard could make you more fatigued, not exercising enough will delay any needed benefits.
Find exercises that are fun, convenient for you, tailored to your needs and that are not too intense. There are lots of exercises that you can do in the comfort of your own home or outside. You don’t need to go to a gym to get fit or feel better about yourself.
If you decide to venture into a gym to kick start your fitness, then it’s very important to get advice and training from someone who has the experience and knowledge of working with breast cancer clients. You can check out the videos on this page to help you understand how exercise helped me and how I now help others to feel better mentally and physically during and after their breast cancer treatment.
Apart from helping others regain their fitness during cancer, I work closely with several breast cancer charities, to raise both funds and awareness. The third video is of myself speaking at a House of Parliament reception when I was asked by the charity Breast Cancer Now to speak as a patient representative. The topic concerned geographical inequalities for the detection and treatment of breast cancer and it was my job to ask that all persons diagnosed should receive the same high standard of care, regardless of their post code. It was an honour to speak on behalf of the thousands affected by breast cancer.
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