breast cancer exercise
Marian Barnick

Marian Barnick

Registered Kinesiologist and Human Movement Specialist


breast cancer exercise


Think again if you believe that breast cancer exercise programs were designed just for young breast cancer survivors.  If you do, you clearly haven’t heard about Harriette.


Harriette Thompson passed away in 2017 at the age of 94.  One of the remarkable things about Harriette, aside from so many others, is that Harriette ran a marathon at the age of 92 and ran a half marathon at the age of 94.  Wow!!!  This is incredible.


But wait, there’s more!


Harriette was a three time cancer survivor.  She started running in her mid 70s as a way to raise money and awareness for cancer research.


If that’s not a little motivation, I’m not sure what is.


Are You Too Old To Exercise?

The simple answer is no.  There are a number of factors that determine ability to exercise but age isn’t one of them.


And you can start an exercise program at any age – even after a breast cancer diagnosis.


What’s important is where you start.  If you’re new to exercise you need to start with foundational movement exercises to get the basics of how your body SHOULD be moving before leveling up to more complex exercises.


If you’ve had surgery or are in treatment, get the approval of your Surgeon and Oncologist before you start.  There are a number of best stretches for breast cancer survivors to improve movement quality.


Cancer Rehabilitation At All Stages of Disease

Breast cancer exercise is recommended at all stages of disease, even as soon as you’re diagnosed.  Exercise provides amazing benefits at any stage of disease but of course, your breast cancer rehab has to be determined with your team of doctors and movement therapist.


Breast Cancer Prehab

After diagnosis and prior to treatment, cancer prehabilitation works to help get your body ready for treatment.  It can help with mobility,  building endurance, and improving strength as chemotherapy can decrease muscle mass and there is often the side effect of fatigue.



Exercise During Chemotherapy

During chemotherapy treatment, exercise can help with chemo side effects but must be considered based on a number of specific considerations including fatigue levels, previous surgery, and your blood work results.


Your Oncologist may have your wait 2-3 days after each treatment before you start with your exercise program.


Exercise during this phase of treatment is to help with symptoms, not to build endurance or muscle.


Breast Cancer Exercise After Surgery

After surgery, shoulder movement is going to be difficult and your rehabilitation program should work on the best stretches based on the type of surgery you’ve had.


Get clearance from your Surgeon prior to starting any exercise program.  However, you don’t need to wait to move your shoulder/s.  There are a lot of foundational movements and postural alignment exercises that can be done right after surgery that help decrease swelling and improve healing.


You might want to get this Consent Form completed by your Doctor to make sure you know what you can and cannot do right after surgery.


Where to Start with Breast Cancer Exercise

Start slowly.


Make sure you develop good movement quality.  Starting with range of motion exercises will determine if you have any deficits in joint mobility that you need to work on.


It’s not about how much you do, it’s about how you do it.  By making sure you work on proper body alignment, you’ll heal faster, move better, and decrease your risk of any future issues such as breast cancer back pain which effects many survivors because of poor body mechanics and compensations.


Once you have good foundational movement, you can add to your exercise program as you are motivated and as you are able.  We’re not all going to be marathon runners.  Pick an activity that you love (or at least like) because it will help you stick to your program.


Research shows that exercise reduces the risk of breast cancer recurrence.


If you’re interested in learning more about the fundamental movement skills that help breast cancer patients get back to the activities they love, get your name on the list so you’re notified when the next Free Training Class is being offered.

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