Breast Cancer Awareness Month: The Role of Exercise

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: The Role of Exercise

A few years ago I participated in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  I joined this walk in honor of my neighbor, who passed away from breast cancer years before.  I had never known anyone with cancer before her, so watching her struggles was a new experience for me.  However, despite the struggles she had, she was an amazing woman who was full of life and lived the best she could with the time that she had.  Doing the walk was a powerful experience.  Seeing the waves of pink ripple through the city as the walkers went through their journey, seeing the huge crowds of supporters cheering us on, having cars honking and waving as they went by, seeing the joy, the tears, the hope… it was really an amazing experience.

“October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and while breast cancer death rates in the United States have declined, it’s still the most common cancer among women in the United States, after skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 230,480 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2011. And, an estimated 39,520 women are expected to die from this cancer in 2011. Of course, men can get breast cancer as well, but it’s much rarer.”

All too often we start taking care of ourselves too late.  Many people just do not realize the impact that health and fitness have on your overall wellness, particularly when it comes to preventing chronic illness.  Exercise is all too often viewed as merely something used to feed vanity.  I tell you this, 100%… exercise should NOT be about vanity.  It should be done out of love.  Love for yourself, and love for those who love you,  so that you can take care of yourself and live the fullest years that you have with those around you.  Put away the mirror, stop calling yourself “fat,” and look at the bigger picture.  You could save YOUR life and the lives of many around you (by being a great example) by simply engaging in a healthier lifestyle.  What’s your life worth to you?  What about your children’s lives?  Your friend’s lives?  Start living a healthier life NOW, so that you don’t have to live with regrets later.

The following guidelines come from ACE (American Council on Exercise).  To see a base recommendation for all individuals, please refer to

If you’re a survivor, or undergoing treatment, here are some fitness recommendations for you:

  • Physical activity guidelines suggest that breast cancer survivors should engage in aerobic activities at moderate intensity for a total of 150 minutes per week or vigorous/strenuous intensity for 75 minutes per week; or some combination.
  • Recommendations for strength training include performing activities that work the major muscle groups in both the lower and upper body two or three times per week.
  • To improve flexibility, recent recommendations suggest stretching major muscle groups when aerobic and strength-training activities are performed.
  • Women who have had surgery should allow time for healing and then evaluate arm/shoulder mobility before performing upper-body exercises. Women should not exercise on days of extreme fatigue or pain.
  • If undergoing chemotherapy, set short-term goals to prevent loss of interest or motivation. Nausea may lead to lack of appetite and then to low energy.
  • If radiotherapy is part of treatment, wear comfortable clothing when exercising as skin rashes and burns may be present. The pool should also be avoided as an exercise option.
  • If undergoing hormone treatment, choose safe activities that limit possibility of falls — be aware of risk for fractures. Exercise in a cool environment and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Considering engaging a personal trainer who specializes in working with cancer survivors.

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