Exercising After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
After you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, the last thing you probably feel like thinking about, let alone doing, is exercising. Yet a number of studies have shown how beneficial exercise can be in relation to cancer patients getting a good outcome by exercising regularly.
A woman who has breast cancer may have some unique challenges in relation to exercise. This is particularly true if she has had a mastectomy, that is, her breast removed. Sometimes, lymph nodes will also be removed from the underarm. All of this can lead to considerable pain, swelling, soreness, mobility issues and muscle issues.
A woman recovering from surgery will usually be given a set of rehabilitation exercises to do regularly in order to regain the use of the arm. These will usually start about 2 weeks after the surgery if healing is progressing well and there has been no infection. Exercises might including ‘walking’ the arm up the wall by the fingers until you can get your arm over your head without too much pain.
In addition to rehabilitation exercises, working out for your overall health is also important. The recommendation for the average adult is 150 minutes of aerobic exercise that basically boosts your heart rate, and 30 minutes twice a week of strength training such as light weights.
Walking and cycling are two good aerobic choices when you are first recovering. Once your wounds have fully healed, generally within a few months, you might consider swimming or water walking and water aerobics to improve range of motion. A warm pool will also be soothing. However, if you are having radiation too, wait until your treatments are over, because they can be very irritating to the skin and the chlorine in the pool would only make it worse.
In terms of strength training, light weights, weight machines and resistance bands are ideal. The important thing is to start slowly with a light weight and a lot of repetitions. Yoga is a great workout because it uses your own body weight for training. It also has a mind-body aspect to it, so it can help you relax and get back in tune with the new you.
Tai chi is another weight-bearing exercise option that builds strength and improves mental focus too.
The most important thing to remember as a cancer patient is to practice good self-care, and exercise has been proven to be one of the best ways to improve your health.