Making Exercise part of your life after Breast Cancer treatment

Why you must exercise after breast cancer

When I was in the middle of my chemo treatments I remember asking an Oncologist what their opinion was the best thing to do to prevent a recurrence.

I was hoping that he was going to say “green smoothies” because I had been glugging those back BUT nope, he said “exercise”

Urgh, WHAT! I didn’t want to hear that! Exercise was not my thing, I never ran unless someone was chasing me.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not a Doctor and this is not medical advice, it is merely my opinion. Please consult your Doctor before you start any exercise regime.

But unfortunately (fortunately!) one of the biggest studies on Breast Cancer research had determined that exercise really did prevent a recurrence.

The Benefits of Exercise

Now, I’m not a Doctor, but my interpretation of that is it creates a domino effect – once you start working out, you realize the benefits of eating healthily etc.

THIS  article I found backs up this claim:

New research examines some of the lifestyle factors that influence breast cancer recurrence rates.

The research was conducted by Dr. Ellen Warner, of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Canada, in collaboration with co-author Dr. Julia Hamer, and the findings were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

The study consists of a meta-analysis of 67 articles that examine several lifestyle choices, including exercise, weight management, dietary patterns, smoking, and alcohol consumption.

Lifestyle Factor Affecting Recurrence

Of all the lifestyle factors reviewed, physical activity and avoiding weight gain seem to have the most beneficial effect on the odds of breast cancer recurrence.

The Researchers comment:

Of all lifestyle factors, physical activity has the most robust effect on breast cancer outcomes. Weight gain of more than 10 percent body weight after a breast cancer diagnosis increases breast cancer mortality and all-cause mortality. However, there are good reasons to discourage even moderate weight gain because of its negative effects on mood and body image.”

Women who are overweight or obese seem to have the lowest chances of survival. By contrast, women who exercise moderately – 30 minutes of physical activity every day, 5 days a week, or 75 weekly minutes of intense exercise – significantly reduce their risk of breast cancer recurrence and breast cancer death.

As a survivor, my intention is not to scare you in any way. I understand how you feel when you have just been diagnosed, but once you are done with treatment and feeling a lot better, it is time to start evaluating your health.

Myself included, I’m 6 years out and the weight has crept on a little and now is the time to sort it out! So let’s encourage each other.

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So after I found out about the benefits of exercise, I decided that I needed to work out and my goal was to start as soon as I had finished radiation.

To be honest I felt pretty good during radiation so I bought a second-hand treadmill  and stuck it in my garage (it’s like hot yoga only on a treadmill!)

How to Begin Exercising

When deciding on a treadmill, look for something that is quite sturdy and that has inclines, this means it will go up and down and make you feel like you are walking or running up a hill which is a better workout.

I decided on the Couch to 5K program and I would highly recommend it.

It starts really, really slow as in run for 2 minutes – which I will admit was hard in the beginning if you are a non-runner!

Slowly but surely I started to build up my stamina and it really was quite remarkable how amazing I felt!

How to Set Yourself A Goal

My goal was to run a 5K and I signed up for the Susan G Komen 5K in downtown Austin.

I started training in the middle of August and the race was in early November.

And I did it! I clearly remember the first time I ran 20 minutes without stopping, it was such an incredible feeling, truly amazing. Actually one of the highlights of my life!

The day of the race was nerve-wracking but I had a great support team so that makes a huge difference and I ran the whole entire way (very slowly, but running nevertheless).

I would love, love, love to encourage you to start exercising (with your Doctor’s approval of course!). And to believe in yourself, I am 45, I never, in a million years, thought that I would actually start running!!

Here is a glimpse of the Couch to 5K training program:

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One of the most motivating factors to working out is to invest in some workout gear that makes you feel good.

You really don’t need to spend a ton of money and I’ve sourced some really inexpensive workout gear for you to look at, it really does make a difference if you have something cute to wear, not to mention ready to wear.

If you can grab your clothes quickly it will help with your commitment to actually doing exercise.

I once read a tip, sleep in your workout clothes and jump up in the morning ready to go! I’ve done it a few times and I have to say it really works (although not as comfy as PJs!)

Super Cute Under $25 Workout Clothes

I would love to know how you are getting on with your exercise program, we all need to motivate each other, no matter how small the steps are, you’ve got this!

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Why you must exercise after breast cancer
Why you must exercise after breast cancer


  1. / 9:24 pm

    Hey Jen: Congratulations on your recovery back to health and I love that you’re promoting exercise. I want to mention that it can be a big step to add walking and most times, especially after surgery, the first step should be stretching. As a Cancer Movement Therapist, I promote setting a foundation of movement for breast cancer patients and this ensures that when they add more robust activities, like the 5K (congrats on that goal!!!) they have the proper movement patterns in place so there are no increased risk of hip and knee injuries because the shoulders are pulling out of alignment. Just thought I’d add my 2 cents.

    • Jen
      / 4:54 pm

      Hi Marian, thank you for your amazing comments, I have a tennis playing son so I understand the benefit of stretching whilst exercising but I’m not sure everyone would to be honest. I am going to send you an email and I would love it if I could promote your Movement Therapies, they are brilliant and my GwG community would love to read about them.

  2. Fran
    / 6:29 pm

    I am 64, and had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction 6 weeks ago. Decided on this before surgery. But after surgery, surprise!! I went to the next stage and now will start radiation. Not thrilled about it but must do it. Exercise is far from my mind but I stretch and move around during the day. Walking will be incorporated next week. Thanks for this info and the reminder to keep exercising. God bless.

    • Jen
      / 8:51 pm

      Hi Fran, I hope you are doing so well, thanks for reaching out. You are definitely over the worst part now and you can look forward to getting back to normal as soon as possible. Sending much love for a quick recovery, Jen

  3. Lydia
    / 11:29 pm

    Great post… Bilateral double mastectomy, expanders placed… 4 months later implants were placed… the implants had to come out so 5 months later I had the diep flap procedure…. All is good so far…. I am now 3 months post surgery and I’m starting to do more in general, walking and now I have started physical therapy which I think is so important for BC patients…. I have frozen shoulders and my back is like a roadmap from sleeping at an incline or in the recliner for months – I don’t understand why there are not yoga or PT classes for BC patients… Pre cancer/chemo – I know how to work out – post cancer – reconstruction I don’t… I am afraid to hurt myself…. So thanks for the post – Hope you continue to do well…

  4. Jessica
    / 4:06 pm

    So, what about if you exercised before the first occurrence? 6 days a week? Then what? What if you are healthy before breast cancer? And, aimed to keep your weight in a healthy range?
    As far as studies go, there are studies that say if you nursed a child your chances of breast cancer go down. Did that too.
    I’m frustrated and angry. Thanks for listening. You can do all the “right” things and still get breast cancer. Still need surgery + chemo + radiation because it is a fast growing aggressive cancer.

    • Jen
      / 3:59 am

      Honestly I completely understand how you feel. My Primary Care Doctor actually told me that I would never get breast cancer because I nursed my children for so long – obviously that was NOT the case. But here’s the thing – you are going into this healthy in every other sense of the word and that’s a great thing. Also, just know that it was nothing that you did to cause this, you obviously take great care of yourself and this was just a fluke. It’s a bump in the road and I’m looking forward to hearing when you are done and how great you are doing – because in a few months time it will all be over and you will be moving on with your life. Hang in there, you’ve got this!! Much love, Jen