Physical activity, whether it’s a walk around the block or a workout in the gym, has proven benefits for those who have had treatment for breast cancer.  

Although exercise may feel like the last thing someone wants to do during cancer recovery, research shows it could make all the difference by helping to boost energy levels, minimise side effects and even enhance the recovery process. 

Bloomhill Cancer Care’s accredited exercise physiologist Ryan Day is on hand to guide you through a personalised exercise program and advise you how to make physical activity an enjoyable part of everyday life.  

Benefits of exercise  

  • Exercise can help avoid or reduce side effects such as fatigue, weight gain, osteoporosis and lymphoedema.  
  • It can help improve long-term health, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and may reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.  
  • It can aid your mental wellbeing by reducing anxiety, stress, depression and improving your mood.  
  • It can also prevent or reduce loss of muscle tone and general fitness that can happen during and after treatment. 

Exercise helps breast cancer survivors recover from treatment 

The impact of side effects from breast cancer treatment has been likened to rapid ageing. For example, 12 weeks of chemotherapy may lead to similar declines in cardiovascular fitness as can be seen with a decade of ageing.  

The good news is exercise can not only stop this decline, but it can also lead to improvements in cardiovascular fitness. It also helps counteract adverse effects from treatment on muscle strength, bone density, and balance, and prevents and/or reduces the severity of treatment-related side effects such as fatigue and lymphoedema.  

Exercise also improves mood and one’s sense of control following breast cancer. Of particular importance, there is strong evidence that links physical activity with survival. 

Lymphoedema can be a side effect of breast cancer surgery, particularly when lymph nodes have been removed.  

“When prescribed correctly and gradually, exercise has been shown to improve lymphoedema-associated symptoms, without any negative effects,” Ryan said.  

Various types of exercise provide different benefits. 

  • Aerobic exercise benefits body composition, cardiovascular fitness and heart health.  
  • Resistance exercise benefits body composition, strength and bone density.  
  • Balance exercise improves balance and side effects of peripheral neuropathy (tingling, burning or numbness).  
  • Core strengthening especially important if there has been breast reconstruction involves the abdominal muscle.  
  • Range of movement/flexibility exercises are beneficial, particularly for regaining arm and shoulder range of motion.  

The benefits of exercise are many and varied  

Exercise physiologist Ryan Day will check in with your treatment team then put together a personalised exercise prescription. 

“Post-operative exercises may include simple range of movement exercises,” Ryan said. “During this initial recovery phase, it is usually safe to perform aerobic exercises, such as walking and stationary cycling. Once it is safe to do so I may prescribe lower body strength and balance exercise.  

“Once cleared by a surgeon, usually six weeks post-operation, it is advised to continue to work on regaining arm range of movement and to gradually build strength and cardiovascular fitness.”  

Self-motivated exercise 

If you want to establish a home exercise routine start slowly with an activity you enjoy and gradually build up the amount you do.  

For example, if you enjoy walking, start walking a short distance regularly. Once you’re managing this easily, gradually build up the distance, number of times a day you walk, or the speed at which you walk.  

A pedometer or a pedometer app for your phone can help you monitor your progress. 

Things like setting realistic goals, keeping a record of how much activity you do and sharing your progress with other people may help you stay motivated. 

There are also many ways to include exercise in your daily routine including: 

  • energetic housework or gardening 
  • parking your car a little further away from the shops or work and walking the rest of the way 
  • getting off the bus a stop earlier than you need to and walking 
  • using the stairs instead of talking the lift 
  • sitting less and standing more, for example you could walk around when talking on the phone 

Before starting a self-motivated activity, talk to your treatment team or to Ryan.  

20,000 women are diagnosed with Breast Cancer each year 

1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in their lifetime 

Survival Rate for Breast Cancer beyond 5 years is 91% 

Cancer doesn’t stop and neither do we.  

Our wellness centre here in Buderim currently supports more than 300 beautiful women who are receiving treatment for breast cancer. And we don’t plan on slowing down any time soon.  

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we are going all out in pink to raise awareness and support women across the Sunshine Coast impacted by breast cancer who seek our support. 

Help us achieve our goal of raising $32,700 to provide: 

  • Full sponsorship for 100 women for After Breast Cancer (ABC) program ($250/client) = $25K  
  • 100 complimentary lymphoedema /massage / reflexology treatments for women with breast cancer ($77/client = $7.7K