For years, researchers have studied the relationship between breast cancer and physical activity. Numerous studies have found that physically active women have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who don’t exercise. This suggests that physical exercise can be beneficial for breast cancer patients. However, researchers from University of North Carolina found that most breast cancer patients fail to meet physical activity guidelines after being diagnosed with the disease.
The US Department of Health and Human Services and the American Cancer Society recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of intense physical activity each week for general health wellness. Researchers took a look at the pre- and post-diagnosis activity levels of 1,735 North Carolinian women aged 20 to 74 years who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between 2008 and 2011.
Results found that only 35 percent of the patients met the guidelines for physical activity post-diagnosis. Nearly 60 percent decreased their physical activity six months after diagnosis. African American women, who have a higher mortality rate from breast cancer, were also 40 percent less likely to meet physical activity guidelines compared to white women.
“Medical care providers should discuss the role physical activity plays in improving breast cancer outcomes with their patients, and strategies that may be successful in increasing physical activity among breast cancer patients need to be comprehensively evaluated and implemented,” said researcher Brionna Hair, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Breast cancer patients should take precautions when engaging in any physical activity. Some exercises may be too rigorous, especially after breast cancer surgery. Cancer.org has a great list of simple exercises to help restore arm and shoulder movement after breast surgery.
If you or a loved one has breast cancer, follow these steps below to ensure safe exercise:
- Consult with your doctor to determine what exercises you can do and which you should avoid. If you’re taking medication or have any other conditions, ask how they can affect your exercise routine.
- Keep your exercises simple; don’t start out with daily intense workouts. As you begin to regain strength and movement, gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. Never compare yourself to other people with breast cancer – go at your own pace.
- Warm up by walking for 5 to 10 minutes or taking a shower. You should always stretch out your muscles before starting your exercises. Take another quick walk in between sessions to cool down.
- Know your limits. If you being to feel tired or pain, stop exercising and rest. See your doctor or a physical therapist if the pain persists.