Fighting Breast Cancer Through Physical Activity

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Post from Triathlon Family USA, Inc.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s a great time to draw attention to the need for survivors to be physically active. Nearly all survivors endure therapeutic cancer treatment that includes surgery or chemotherapy or radiation, or some combination of these. Afterwards, most are sent on their way, often with a prescription for ongoing hormonal medication therapy – and advice to maintain a healthy body weight through sound nutrition and physical activity,

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One of the most compelling reasons to follow a physical activity exercise plan after cancer treatment is that it helps you feel engaged in the fight. Once the frequent medical visits diminish, survivors may feel “anxious” that they’re not doing enough to battle the dreaded disease. Engaging in regular physical activity not only provides the feel-good endorphins that go along with exercise but also reassures survivors that they are doing something very important to stave off recurrence or new cancer development.

For most of these survivors – and there are more than 200,000 of them diagnosed in the United States each year, there is little or no guidance on what kind of physical activity to engage in or how to go about being active while addressing the healing process and potentially ongoing, even permanent side effects of cancer treatment.

What about the 2.9 million survivors the American Cancer Society says have already completed treatment?  Well, research suggests that survivors who engage in regular exercise may lengthen their lives. Physically active survivors live longer than those who aren’t active, and their quality of life is better. Those who are active say they experience less fatigue and pain and enjoy greater functioning in the activities of daily living.

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So, what should you do if you’re a breast cancer survivor and are looking for help developing a physical activity plan?

Both newly diagnosed and post-treatment survivors should begin by searching for a Cancer Exercise Specialist (CES) in your area. These are individuals who have been trained in the special concerns of cancer survivors, who will work with you and your medical team to help you become physically active or to resume activity if you were active previously.

A Cancer Exercise Specialist is a professional who is qualified to assess, design, and implement individual and group exercise programs for individuals diagnosed with cancer. These individuals have received advanced training to evaluate health behaviors and risk factors, conduct comprehensive fitness assessments, and make appropriate exercise program recommendations. They also will help motivate individuals to eliminate negative habits and behaviors. A Cancer Exercise Specialist has a complete understanding of cancer from diagnosis to treatment, recovery, and special concerns such as preventing lymphedema or barriers to exercise. While there are other training programs available, the CES has been trained in the practical application of exercise for cancer survivors both during and after treatment.

That’s it! Whether you need stretching, walking, or other physical activity training, there is help available. Each survivor is different. Some may return to vigorous exercise quickly. Others require support and a helping hand for years to come. Some survivors may want to run marathons while others just want to walk around the block. Regardless of where you are on the cancer continuum, or what kinds of activities you enjoy, physical activity will make that journey forward easier.

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