For many women, it is after treatment for breast cancer, when they feel like they still need support or are left with the question, “What do I do now?” This is the feedback that I’ve received from numerous participants when leading the exercise portion of several “Return to Wellness Programs.” The 10-Week program was designed as a way for women to ease into fitness after a diagnosis and treatment. It was a way for the participants to not only increase their physical strength and stamina, but to also “get their life back” with a sense of empowerment. Exercise has a way of creating a positive environment where the day-to-day “life skills and tasks” become easier to perform. Other positive effects in women included improvement in their fatigue levels and in the chronic side-effects of treatment and anti-cancer medications.
While the last thing women feel like doing after treatment sometimes is getting out of bed and brushing their teeth, it is important that you regain that mind/body connection and get started on some type of regimen. I particularly think that a gentle Yoga and/or Pilates routine is a great place to start. The emphasis on the breath is a great way to reconnect with your body and focus on your progress.
When feeling a bit stronger, non-impact exercise incorporating dynamic movement such as dance is a fun way to increase mobility and range of motion and to incorporate a mind/body connection. If dancing is not your thing, find another form of cardiovascular activity such as biking, walking or swimming to get you moving again.
It is important to listen to your doctor’s advice in terms of preventing lymphedema, but there are safe ways to incorporate strength training without putting added stress on your lymphatic system. I suggest starting with light weights or bands and pay extra attention to your range of motion restrictions and form. Resistance bands are a safe way to get started prior to using weights and to help guide the body a little more effectively in terms of form. By raising your muscular strength and endurance, you’re also raising your metabolism at the same time.