Diseases like breast cancer can leave you tired, exhausted, and in trauma. Not only does breast cancer have painful symptoms, but its treatment also comes with daunting side effects such as hair loss, fatigue, nausea, and pain.
But do you know there are plenty of alternative and complementary strategies that can help you fight cancer? That too, with no side effects! One such method is something we always take for granted: exercise!
You heard it right!
You must be thinking that I’m already going through weekly chemo-sessions, following medications, taking care of family, and you still want me to workout? But once you read through the reasons and benefits of exercise for breast cancer, you will realize we weren’t wrong.
Recent studies have revealed that exercise for breast cancer is a safe and effective means of improving life quality even during cancer treatment. Let’s understand the benefits of exercise for breast cancer patients.
1. Gets You Your Daily Dose Of Cardio
Do you know the impact of breast cancer treatment is similar to ageing? If you are in your 30s, undergoing chemotherapy, the treatment will most likely leave you hairless, lethargic, with decreased cardiovascular fitness.
The good news is, with the benefits of exercise for breast cancer, you can stop this decline! Exercise provides strength to heart muscles, keeps them flexible, and helps boost the heart’s peak-activity. As a result, the heart is efficient enough to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the body tissues all the time, keeping you healthy and active.
2. Builds Muscle Mass
Loss of muscle mass is one of the many side-effects of chemotherapy. And muscle mass helps cancer patients in bearing the side effects of the treatment and surviving the disease. If you choose to exercise, you are promoting your muscle mass to build, so you come out of chemo stronger and healthier. It’s advised to jog or run a few times a week or picking light weights at least thrice a week to stimulate muscle growth.
3. Helps Fight Depression
Research states that 64% of breast cancer patients have experienced depression and associated mood swings. One of the benefits of exercise for breast cancer is that it lifts your mood during the treatment, providing you with the strength to fight the disease with better morale and keeping anxiety and depression at bay. Training such as yoga increases the level of natural mood lifters called endorphins. Exercise for breast cancer also helps increase the brain’s blood flow, which protects the brain from damage.
4. Helps Overcome Insomnia
Painful side effects of breast cancer and chemo might affect your sleep cycle adversely. And not getting enough sleep might further add on to breast cancer symptoms making you even more exhausted and being in a bad mental space. Therefore, you need to get quality sleep at night to feel better in the morning. Your doctor might recommend medication to help you sleep well, but we recommend including exercise for breast cancer as part of your treatment. The post-exercise drop in body temperature promotes better sleep. Exercise also reduces symptoms of insomnia, anxiety and depression, which further promotes better sleep.
Now that you know how exercise for breast cancer can help you rejuvenate and stay active during treatment, it is essential to understand how much exercise to do.
How Much Exercise Should I Do?
Breast cancer treatment can leave you tired and fatigued more than often. We understand that. So, does it mean that you stop living a quality life? A BIG NO!
You don’t need to regularly and intensively work out to get the desired exercise benefits for breast cancer. Even a small amount of physical activity can be highly beneficial as long as it is consistent. If you struggle to do physical activity for 20 minutes, reduce your time to 10 minutes only but not let the inactivity take over you. As you get in the habit, add 1 minute each day to your routine for a healthy increase in physical activity.
Don’t forget to check with your doctor and find out the best exercise for breast cancer according to your diagnosis.
JAMA Oncology. 2017. Association of Muscle and Adiposity Measured by Computed Tomography With Survival in Patients With Nonmetastatic Breast Cancer
NCBI. 2018. Physical Activity, Exercise and Breast Cancer - What Is the Evidence for Rehabilitation, Aftercare, and Survival? A Review
NCBI. 2018. Hip muscular strength balance is associated with running economy in recreationally-trained endurance runners
Harvard Health. 2018. Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression
National Sleep Foundation. (n.d). How does exercise help those with chronic insomnia?
Cancer Council Victoria. (n.d). Side effects of chemotherapy