It is important to engage in a fitness program after breast cancer surgery and treatment, as soon as you are able and have been cleared by your surgeon or oncologist. A good fitness program after breast cancer should include a combination of cardiovascular, balance, stretching and strength exercises.
When beginning an exercise program after breast cancer, there are several factors to consider.
1. First and foremost, obtain permission from your surgeon or oncologist. Most people can safely begin to exercise six weeks after surgery, but everyone is different, so be sure to get your doctor’s ok.
2. Start slowly, especially if you are new to exercise. Start by working on regaining posture, balance, flexibility (stretching) and range of motion exercises, along with moderate cardiovascular exercise such as walking. Try to walk every day, or three days a week at the least. Visit the Beat Fatigue post for more information on beginning a walking program.
3. When you have regained a good amount of flexibility and range of motion, then begin strength training exercises. Start with no weights, or very light weights, 1 to 2 pounds.
4. If you are new to exercise, or have very limited functionality, find a fitness professional to work with – someone who has knowledge of working with cancer patients, or even a physical therapist.
5. If you have lymphedema, wear a compression garment during exercise. You may want to consult with a lymphedema specialist. If you have neuropathy, avoid using hand held weights, especially if you are experiencing neuropathy during exercise sessions.
6. Warm up and cool down before and after each session, rest when needed, and stop if you experience any pain.
7. Stay hydrated. Many factors can cause dehydration – heat, medications, chemotherapy, and drinking too little. Try to consume 12 ounces of water prior to exercise. Have a bottle of water available to sip from during exercise, and drink at least another 12 ounces of water after exercise.