We all know how much motivation can be lacking when it comes to exercising, especially as we head into the colder months and less daylight. But what if you also have a cancer diagnosis on top of it? The motivation to exercise can be little to non-existent, despite knowing that exercise after diagnosis is linked with prolonged survival and improved quality of life. Yet many breast cancer patients are not meeting national guidelines for physical activity.

According to a new study conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study, gleaned pre- and post-diagnosis activity levels from 1,735 women aged 20 to 74 years old, all of whom had been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between 2008 and 2011. Overall, about 65 percent of the women studied failed to meet national recommendations for physical activity levels six months after they were diagnosed.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Cancer Society recommend 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise or 1.25 hours of vigorous intensity activity each week for general health and chronic disease prevention and management.


So why are breast cancer patients not exercising more?

When someone is actively fighting cancer, they are usually burdened by fatigue and sometimes pain, which can make exercising seem even more daunting. And then there’s the time factor. We all know it takes time to carve out a planned time to exercise. And when you have a cancer diagnosis, you attend a lot of doctor’s visits, which take up time from your regular activities (work, family obligations, etc….) Usually the first thing to go are recreational activities, such as exercising.

Another factor can be socioeconomic issues, because even a simple act like running or walking requires athletic shoes, and when you’re already spending more in healthcare, it’s not always easy to find the extra funds to afford athletic items.

Despite these hindrances, exercise is important and valid. A 2011 meta-analysis of published studies regarding physical activity and survival after breast cancer found the mortality rate dropped by 34 percent for women who were very active when compared to women who weren’t.


Therefore, it is highly encouraged for those who are in the midst of breast cancer treatment, or survivors to lead a more physically active life through a variety of free programs such as walking, running, biking, paddling, snowshoeing and hiking.

Exercise tips for cancer survivors:

  • Take classes with other survivors. Look for local gyms or hospitals or YMCAs that may offer them.
  • Start walking with your spouse or friend.
  • Many survivors do well with strength training programs, which have been shown to improve strength and fitness. Strength training has been shown to be safe for breast cancer survivors – it doesn’t cause or worsen arm lymphedema.
  • Because some patients have reduced ability to fight infections during treatments, it may be preferred to exercise at home or outdoors rather than in a gym.

There are no guarantees that regular workouts will keep cancer at bay, but we do know that it will improve a survivors’ quality of life and reduce fatigue.

To learn more about Breast cancer-related lymphedema, visit Breast Cancer Related – medi USA.