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Breast Cancer Survivors Are At A Higher Risk For Weight Gain — Here’s What You Need To Know

According to recent studies, breast cancer patients who adopt or maintain an exercise routine both during and after treatment reduce the risk of their cancer returning by 20 to 80 percent. Staying active reduces inflammation, relieves stress and changes your body chemistry for the better — not to mention helping you maintain a healthier weight. When performed properly, the following exercises can help you recover from surgery, regain mobility and stay in remission.

Build Up Slowly

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According to the American Cancer Society, you can begin some exercises soon after surgery. It’s important to ease into an exercise regime, particularly during breast cancer treatment and recovery. If you dive into advanced exercises too quickly, you run the risk of hurting yourself, which is certainly not a desirable outcome. To avoid strained tendons, bruised muscles and surgical scar irritation, gently stretch your entire body during your pre-exercise warm-up routine. If you experience pain, stop what you’re doing immediately and choose a lighter form of exercise: mild discomfort is okay, but outright pain is not.

Specific Exercises:

  • The Spider Walk
    • According to Prevention, the spider walk is a great post-operative exercise designed to improve upper body mobility. Stand about eight inches from the wall and raise the arm on your affected side, placing your fingers on the wall. Walk your fingers slowly up the wall until you can go no further; then, hold that position for 15 seconds before relaxing your arm. Repeat this exercise five times for best results.
  • The Chest Stretch
    • Begin by standing in a door frame. Then, raise the arm on your affected side and place your forearm against the frame with your elbow at chest height. Lean slowly forward until you feel a stretching sensation; then, hold that position for 30 seconds before relaxing. Once again, repeat this exercise five times.
  • The Pendulum
    • You can gently stretch the muscles and tissues in your chest and arms via the pendulum exercise. Simply lean forward at the waist and allow the arm on your affected side to hang down in front of you. Then, make small circles with your hand and let your arm follow the movement. Circle ten times clockwise and then ten times anticlockwise before switching to the other arm.

General Cardiovascular Exercises

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Cardiovascular exercises and aerobics get your heart pumping and help to increase stamina. Regular cardiovascular exercises generally promote an overall feeling of wellbeing and as such, are ideal at all stages of recovery. Cycling, for instance, is a great low-impact cardio exercise. Cycling strengthens the legs and the heart without placing undesirable strain on the arms or upper body, so it’s a great post-op exercise choice.

Weight Training

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As your recovery progresses, add some weight training to your routine. Weight training not only strengthens the muscles but can also help lessen the symptoms of lymphedema, including arm swelling and pain. Try a few light weight-training exercises with one- or two-pound weights.

You can perform lateral raises and biceps curls while sitting in a chair. During a lateral raise, simply hold weights or dumbbells in each hand and raise your arms sideways to shoulder level before lowering them gently. To perform a biceps curl, rest your forearms palm up on your lap with a weight in each hand. Then, bend your elbows to raise your forearms up toward your shoulder. You can repeat both lateral raises and biceps curls up to ten times each.

Modified Exercises

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You may need to modify your exercise regime depending on whether or not you’ve gone through surgery. Some women find certain upper body exercises painful, while others tolerate arm and chest exercises well. Your situation is unique and you may wish to consult with your doctor before beginning or changing an exercise regime.

With the above in mind, many breast cancer patients and survivors find that they can modify exercises to suit their unique needs. If you love swimming but find it hard to swim with your arms, for example, you may find it easier to rest your upper body on a float and swim with your legs instead.

The right exercise regime not only helps you stay fit, active and mobile after treatment, but also makes the body a less cancer-friendly place in the long run. Exercises can also help you avoid gaining weight, which is a common issue for cancer survivors.

How have you stayed fit since your treatment? Share with us in the comments!

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