Regular activity is an important part of staying healthy after treatment for breast cancer. Health professionals may suggest that a woman joins an exercise class after treatment for breast cancer, especially if the woman has fatigue

Exercise is one of the ways of supporting the body to recover after cancer treatment and it’s also a good way of keeping spirits up in the post-treatment period. Studies have shown exercise boosts the immune system and increases energy levels.

Some women are given upper body and arm stretches by a hospital physiotherapist. Doing these regularly in the first few months will help to reduce the arm or shoulder stiffness. Gentle exercise can help both in the prevention and management of lymphoedema.

It’s important to get advice from a health professional before starting a new exercise program and to start slowly and build strength and stamina gradually.

More recent studies have demonstrated promising results suggesting that actively participating in moderate exercise at least 5 times a week can reduce the risk of recurrence from breast cancer.

Tips for maintaining regular exercise

  • Start small and build up. Be gentle, particularly in the weeks just after treatment. Start with some slower forms of exercise like tai chi, gentle yoga, walking or aqua-aerobics.
  • Do something you enjoy. It’s no good jogging if you hate it!
  • Try something new. As your energy starts to return, try something you’ve always wanted to do but never got a chance – flamenco dancing or joining a bush walking club.
  • Find an exercise partner. Find a friend or relative who wants to exercise too and make plans to do it together.
  • Set yourself clear goals. And decide on a reward if you reach your goals (choose a reward that will be sure to motivate you).
  • Join a class. It can be hard to stay motivated on your own – it really helps to join a class or a group.

Find out more about:

  • The Encore program provided through the YWCA is an exercise program specifically for women who have had breast surgery.
  • Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) has a Breast Cancer and Exercise booklet available to help women diagnosed with breast cancer to exercise regularly and can be ordered free-of-charge from BCNA by calling 1800 500 258 or downloaded from www.bcna.org.au.