While doing research for a talk on survivor issues, I was struck by a recurring theme: Exercise! It is really remarkable how many medical issues can be positively impacted when we increase our physical activity. Exercise can help with weight control. Maintaining an ideal body weight (or losing weight to get closer to an ideal body weight) is good for health overall, but it can also reduce the risk of breast cancer and reduce the risk of recurrence.
Exercise can help with cancer-treatment related fatigue. Women who exercise through treatment tend to have less fatigue, and women who exercise after treatment report having more energy and strength. Improvements in cardiovascular fitness through exercise can increase the capacity to perform daily functions and, therefore, improve quality of life for cancer survivors. Weight bearing exercise can help with bone health, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Exercise has been shown to decrease anxiety, and improve emotional well being The exercise recommendations for a healthy lifestyle include 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. Don’t let that intimidate you! Benefits can be seen even with less time and intensity. You can get rewards from adding any activity to avoid being sedentary. The idea is to get moving! Walking is a wonderful weight bearing exercise. Want company? Consider joining Saratoga Moves (www.saratogahospital.org/classes) for monthly walks with a health care provider on Saturdays, or the ToLife! Weekly Walking Group which meets on Wednesdays at their Saratoga office (firstname.lastname@example.org). Survivors who want to develop an exercise routine should also consider the LiveStrong program at the branches of the Saratoga YMCA. This is a 12 week small group exercise program for adults affected by cancer, offered at no cost to the participants. Survivors have individualized coaching and assistance as they work to rebuild strength and stamina. Patricia Rae Kennedy, MD FACS Clinical Director, Saratoga Hospital Center for Breast Care