Exercise & Fitness After Breast Cancer
First, it is important that preconceived notions and conservative views regarding exercise and movement during treatment & rehabilitation need to be eliminated. One of the most common side effects of undergoing conventional treatment (chemotherapy/radiation therapy) is fatigue and the efficient way to fight fatigue is movement. Movement releases endorphins, which then stimulates energy level within the body. It must be kept in mind that the body should not be pushed beyond capacity.
A balanced exercise regimen which includes cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training during recovery and post treatment is vital and maintains a healthy heart, body fat, lean muscle mass, increased range of motion in various joints, strong immune and hormonal balances. It is however important to recognise the Dos and Don’ts as far as exercise regimes are concerned. Summarised in the points below:
- It is important that the exercise regimen is slowly and gradually increased to optimal level. The body should not be pushed beyond its capacity.
- If a cancer patient has had surgery with removal of lymph nodes or radiation to lymph nodes, lymphatic exercises are an essential component of an exercise regimen as the patient/survivor is at the risk of lymphedema at any point in his/her life. Additionally wearing lymphatic compression garments is also essential.
- All exercise regimens must be given medical clearance, especially when there has been a breast reconstructive procedure. There will be certain chest and core exercises, depending on the type of reconstruction, which will need to be avoided in the beginning of the exercise program.
- As surgery and treatment affects range of motion in certain joints, it important to first gain full range of motion in the joint before starting strength training of that particular joint muscle.
- A well-balanced movement and exercise program needs to be created specifically for cancer patients and specific to his or her condition with the right level of cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training.