October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Explore how staying active is vital to your recovery!
Breast cancer is a disease that most women are acutely aware of, as it affects roughly 12% of women in the US. It’s a disease that we see plastered all over the media and are constantly reminded of.
And with all the attention it receives, where does exercise fall in?
At Proven4, our co-founder Shelley knows intimately how breast cancer impacts our daily lives. As a breast cancer survivor herself, she knows the grit it takes to stay active while battling cancer. Explore the role exercise has in supporting those who are amidst this disease.
Battling Breast Cancer And Implementing Exercise
Whether you’re currently battling breast cancer or are recovering from one hell of a fight, the last thing you probably want to do is exercise. After all the prodding, poking, surgeries, and treatments that make you feel like a stranger in your own body, moving from one room to another can feel like a chore.
Aside from not feeling well, you have a lot to face — you may be trying to raise a family, hold down a job, and will yourself through the trenches of life. You’re sick. You’re in pain and sometimes getting out of bed all you can do in a day.
We get it. We’ve been there.
Exercise may seem out of reach. But, it doesn’t have to be this huge cloud of physical intensity! There are many forms of exercise you can weave into your recovery. Let’s dive into moderate exercises you can do that supports your body and your breast cancer journey.
Dancing – Dance it out! Dancing is a gentle way to get moving. And, the best part about it is you can literally do it anywhere! Put on the music that gets you grooving and feel the joy of physical movement and your spirits lift.
Yoga – Yoga, specifically restorative yoga, is wonderful for your body. You’ll begin to engage your muscles and move them in a gentle way with varying props that can assist your body.
Tai Chi – Tai chi is in the same vein as yoga as it strengthens and supports flexibility. This form of Chinese martial arts is gentle and not strenuous and guides you through slow, grounding movements.
Walking – Like dancing, walking can be done just about anywhere. It’s a movement that can also be done at your own pace — you can walk a couple of blocks to a friend’s house or walk a couple of miles around your favorite city park.
Bodyweight movements – If you love lifting but aren’t quite at the point to start strength training again, bodyweight movements are a good place to start. Try squats, one-legged deadlifts, and modified push-ups (on your knees or the wall). This activates your muscles and helps prepare them for when you are able to start lifting again!
Cycling – While we know and love a good spin class, you may want to begin with leisurely pedaling. Get your legs moving and increase the resistance as you are able. Or, if you enjoy cycling outside, take your favorite path or cruise to your favorite restaurant.
Movement is a pillar in breast cancer recovery, just ask anyone who has been through it. It’s stress-relieving and helps you get out of your mind which is great for your sanity! When embarking on any sort of exercise during your recovery, always check in with your doctor and have a conversation about your plans.
Tips For Exercising In Recovery
You know your body best and there is no one way to exercise in which you have to follow. Below are some considerations to take if you feel like you’re ready to become active again.
Go at your own pace.
Exercising in cancer recovery is not a race — it’s not a race to be back at where you were before the cancer or to prove to people how capable you are. While the hurdles can be frustrating and downright discouraging, it’s vital to go at your own pace. The worst thing you can do is overdo it and have to stop and go back to square one.
The important thing is that you start again. It’s taking the initial steps. It’s these consistent steps that will make you stronger each day. And, if that means walking up and down your stairs for five minutes a day, it’s something! Do what you can and go at your own pace.
Count the smallest victories!
So, you used to be a marathon runner or lifter who could squat twice her weight — it can feel like your body has betrayed you, which is why counting small victories is important. Acknowledge your progress when you can run a mile without feeling winded or can perform three rounds of 10 bodyweight squats — it’s not what you used to do, but your body has championed you throughout cancer and has been put through the wringer.
Simply put, you have changed since cancer and it’s a beautiful thing and it’s important to recognize your body in this journey and celebrate all the small wins.
Practice doing less.
If you were an athlete or fitness enthusiast, it can be incredibly difficult to practice restraint when it comes to exercising in recovery. You feel great so you want to do more, but this is where you really should press pause.
Even though you may be able to do more, doesn’t mean you should!
If your doctor recommended that you start running for two minutes and then walking for two minutes, listen to them! See how your body feels after a few training sessions and then modify it as needed.
Stick with easy exercises.
A burpee isn’t so bad, or how about a bodyweight good morning? In theory, they’re moderate exercises that may help you back into training, but keep in mind how they might affect your recovery. Many times, cancer recovery leaves you feeling dizzy and with vertigo, so exercises like burpees and good mornings may only make this worse.
Also, if you’ve had surgery, pull-ups and lifting anything overhead should be avoided until you’re completely healed and your doctor has cleared these exercises.
Don’t focus on others.
You’re a warrior and you survived cancer, this is not the time to worry what others think! It’s hard to shed what you used to be, and sure, you may feel weird with your walk/run training game plan or sporting a bald head when you’re working out because a hat, scarf, or wig are too hot, but the important part is to not let what others think ruin how you choose to train.
So, get out there and focus on YOU! More times than not, people will be cheering you on!
Remember why you love exercise!
Maybe we’ll never publicly admit it, but maybe you really love it! It’s important to remember why it is you like training — for some it’s the energy boost and a great way to manage stress and anxiety, while others love it for the heart, bone, and sleep support.
Exercise is also known to induce apoptosis — cell death — which is advantageous in both cancer prevention and recovery! There are many benefits to exercise, but remember why it is you love it!
Exercise in cancer recovery is not only healthy for your body and mind but it’s recommended! And though it can feel like an upward battle when it comes to feeling up to any kind of movement, when you begin with low-impact exercises such as dancing, walking, or yoga it can really support your healing.
When exercise does begin to feel good again, remember to go at your own pace, count your victories, practice doing less, begin with easy exercises, don’t focus on others, and keep in mind why you love exercise!
As you ease back into training we want to support you in every way! Support your workout with our exercise supplements at Proven4! Shop our workout supplements today!