Fitness Tips for Breast Cancer Survivors (& their Caregivers)

Updated: May 16


It is well documented that physically active women have a lower risk of breast cancer than do others who are not. Thus, it stands to reason that physically active breast cancer survivors may reduce the risk of cancer’s return, and dramatically improve quality of life. As always, consult your oncological team before starting out on your fitness program.


Exercise is safe

Per Breastcancer.org (one of the attached links below), “a roundtable convened by the American College of Sports Medicine in 2010 reviewed available research and concluded that exercise is safe during and after all breast cancer treatments (as long as you take any needed precautions and keep the intensity low) and improves physical functioning, quality of life, and cancer-related fatigue. There also is evidence that exercise can help breast cancer survivors live longer and lead a more active life.”

Risk reduction

According to Cancer.gov (link below) “studies show that physically active women have a lower risk of breast cancer than inactive women. Physical activity has been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women; however, the evidence for an association is stronger for postmenopausal breast cancer.”

This study further elaborates on how exercise can reduce the risks of cancer, and, or its return:

Exercise has a number of biological effects on the body, including:

  • Lowering the levels of hormones, such as estrogen, and of certain growth factors that have been associated with cancer development and progression

  • Helping to prevent obesity and decreasing the harmful effects of obesity

  • Reducing inflammation

  • Improving immune system function

Cognitive Impairment (“chemo brain”)


Furthermore, a new study (found in the Sciencedaily.com link below) “indicates that cancer patients and survivors have a ready weapon against fatigue and "chemo brain": a brisk walk.

Their data suggests “that being more physically active could reduce two of the more commonly reported symptoms in breast cancer survivors: fatigue and cognitive impairment".

Cognitive impairment, such as memory problems or shortened attention spans, is a common complaint among cancer patients and survivors, and is thought to be similar to decline due to aging.

Fitness recommendations

With the above (and below) referenced studies in mind, we at Survivingbreastcancer.org are recommending the following exercise possibilities:

Walking – The health effects of a brisk walk cannot be overstated, notably for cognitive impairment, but also for muscular and circulatory systems.

Yoga – This discipline combines stretching, deep breathing, toning of the muscular system and offers a wonderful way to relax the nervous system.

Meditation – According to the Laura-Sage (link below), meditation can effectively reduce stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and fear of recurrence. It can also help reduce hot flashes.

Weight resistance & training program – In another recent study, researchers looked at data from the Physical Activity and Lymphedema (PAL) trial to determine whether slowly increased weight lifting could increase muscle strength among breast cancer survivors and help them avoid frailty and maintain physical function.

Aerobic and cardio training (swimming, running, elliptical, stairmaster, etc.) – Lastly, another recent study (for the NIH) showed that a “10 week moderate-intensity aerobic exercise program significantly improves quality of life and physical functioning in breast cancer survivors.” Please note that further long-term studies have been recommended

We found the following links to be beneficial:

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/physical-activity-fact-sheet

https://www.scribd.com/document/268275865/Breast-cancer-and-physical-activity

https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/6753/exercise-for-breast-cancer-survivors

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170725122242.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm#ReduceCancer

https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/staying-active/physical-activity-and-the-cancer-patient.html

http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/exercise

https://community.breastcancer.org/forum/44/topics/836196

http://www.lbbc.org/building-and-restoring-physical-fitness-after-breast-cancer

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-you-need-to-know-about-exericse-and-cancer

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-sage/5-benefits-of-meditation_b_10617412.html

https://www.cancer.org/.../study-weight-lifting-helps-breast-cancer-survivors-stay-health...

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25313756


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