Women's Health

The Relationship Between Exercise and Breast Cancer

The Relationship Between Exercise and Breast Cancer

In the case of many diseases, exercise lowers the risk. Is this true for breast cancer? If so, what kind of exercise could help? Does it vary by age or other factors? What about the stage of cancer

There are many questions to be answered about how exercise impacts breast cancer. Examining the facts, theories, and testimonials can help figure out what works best. Everyone is slightly different, so each person may be impacted differently.

Breast cancer

About a quarter of a million people will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Not smoking decreases chances of getting the disease. Avoiding the sun may mitigate risk as well. Getting regular screening and tests may also lower risk.

Recently, attention has turned to other areas as well. Diet and exercise are quickly becoming important to prevent and even treat cancer. What can be done to fight it? What about preventing reoccurrence? Studies have shown that exercise may do both. As a result, there is much to learn about proper exercise for those with breast cancer.

How exercise helps breast cancer

Let’s explore exercise and its impact on breast cancer. Many people enjoy exercise as an activity. It is a great way to reduce stress. It is also a way to spend time with family or friends. Recently, research has shown that exercise is effective in reducing the risk of breast cancer. It was also found to reduce the risk of recurrence. If you have been diagnosed recently, this is welcome news. You may already be exercising on a regular basis or plan to start soon. Evidence shows that exercise has many beneficial qualities. Maintaining healthy weight can decrease your chances of the disease. It is suggested that you keep your body mass index under 25. Studies have shown that exercise can decrease your symptoms during treatment.

Chemotherapy can make you nauseous, but exercise can alleviate those symptoms. Exercise can also get you moving, which increases the blood flow to the extremities. This will decrease the chances of a blood clot. Chemotherapy and medications are also known to wreak havoc on your digestive system. Exercise can decrease constipation and other blockages. Often, your sex drive will suffer during cancer. Exercise increases your endorphins and arousal. Lastly, fatigue is common among cancer patients. Exercise can decrease feeling tired. This can make your day go swiftly.

When you are in treatment, it may seem difficult to exercise. You may be concerned with how exercise impacts your treatment of the cancer. Medical experts have decided that exercise during treatment is relatively safe. Some women may be worried about a condition called Lymphedema. Lymphedema is the swelling of the tissues that can happen after breast cancer surgery. While this is a risk, the benefits outweigh the risk. It is important that you take all the necessary precautions. This includes accounting for any fatigue you may feel from treatments or having cancer.

If you cannot exercise every day, that is okay. It is important to be healthy but also be able to adjust exercises for your body. Dealing with your mental health is also vital. Talk to a therapist if you need assistance. Family and friends can also make this time easier. Let them in on your feelings. It could create a closer bond and help you mentally prepare for fighting the disease. As with any disease, having a positive attitude goes a long way.

Some exercise ideas

There are several activities that might be beneficial and a lot of fun. There are three types of exercise and they are all important. Aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility are all factors that can enrich your fight against cancer. The first option is walking or running. This is a great way to get in an aerobic workout. You also can incorporate it into fighting cancer by participating in a walk for cancer research. This is a great way to include family and friends in your fight!

Beyond walking or running, there are many alternatives. Cycling is a popular choice and a great cardio workout. Strength training may help you accumulate muscle. Do research and work with a trainer familiar with breast cancer to get the most optimal results. By increasing flexibility, yoga can be relaxing and fun. It can also strengthen your muscles as well. Tai chi is another option for breast cancer patients and survivors to increase flexibility. These exercises can even increase your lifespan, just like someone without breast cancer. Remember, keeping motivated is half the battle. Join a gym, a fitness boot camp, a yoga studio, or work out with friends. This will keep you motivated. Whatever method you use, it is important to stretch, take rest breaks, and know your limits.

Risky types of exercises

Even though most exercise is pretty safe, they are still some types that might be riskier. Swimming can pose some risks to those suffering from breast cancer. Swimming laps involve using arm movements, which can aggravate the breasts and arms. Doctors recommend mitigating any risk by using a kickboard or floating device. In weight training, resistance bands are a popular trend. However, with breast cancer patients, there might be some risk. If you pull the band, it is unclear how much resistance is there. It might be too strenuous. Other strength training exercises may have a similar effect. Breast cancer patients and survivors should avoid exercises using their own body as weight. This includes pushups, pull ups, and some yoga poses. These may overstress the arms. While some boot camps may keep you motivated, some like P90X can also be harmful. These exercises are likely to strain the arms and shoulders. Other gym machines may also be harmful. Ellipticals and other cross training machines require arm movement. They should be used with caution. Lastly, tennis involves a lot of arm movement. You may want to save this activity until you have more arm strength. All of these exercises can be done in moderation.


There are many ways to show initiative in your fight against breast cancer. Find a workout buddy. Go out and enjoy yourself. Exercise can help you fight cancer and mitigate symptoms. It may seem hard to motivate yourself at first, but it will eventually become a fantastic distraction. It may even take your mind off chemotherapy and provide an opportunity to be around others. Exercise is relatively safe when done correctly, but take any necessary steps to ensure your safety. If you have concerns, talk to a doctor or physical therapist. There are many resources on proper exercise out there. There are also resources specifically for those with breast cancer. Look for that information, as it might be useful to you.


"Exercise." Breastcancer.org. Breastcancer.org, 17 Feb. 2017. Web. 26 July 2017.