The Benefits of Exercise for Breast Cancer


Image Source: / Stuart Miles

The Benefits of Exercise for Breast Cancer

Exercising when you have breast cancer is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  In fact, it was one of the few things that my oncologist and I could agree upon!

After I was finished with all of my treatments, I took part in an Australian study on the benefits of exercise after breast cancer.  I joined a gym and  attended at least three days per week – even though there were many days when I really was not in the mood to go, I went anyway.  I did this for eight weeks, and at the conclusion of the study I felt so much better, I just kept up with my gym membership and continued going.  I also did yoga and walking on the days when I wasn’t in the gym.

Exercising made sense to me, for several reasons:

  1. Research shows that excess fat on your body puts you at a higher risk for breast cancer (and I didn’t want it back!)
  2. It helps your body detox after all the treatments
  3. Exercise brings fresh oxygen into your body and I was aware that cancer HATES oxygen, it thrives in anaerobic conditions
  4. It increases muscle strength and bone density and reduces risk of injury
  5. It lowers blood pressure
  6. All those feel-good endorphins that exercise releases help psychological health
  7. It prolongs life by fortifying your immune system, helping you control weight and providing you with energy and stamina

Research Shows Exercise Helps With Radiotherapy, Depression, Anxiety

In 1997, a group of researchers in the UK followed 46 women beginning a six-week program of radiation therapy for early stage breast cancer.  The exercise group scored significantly higher than the group that didn’t exercise on physical functioning and symptom intensity, particularly fatigue, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. [1]

Another research study done in the UK in 1998 followed 24 breast cancer survivors (mean time following surgery 41.8 months; ranging from 1 to 99 months) with an average age of 48.9 years.  They were followed for 10 weeks and asked to do aerobic exercise 4 days per week, 30-40 minutes/session.  The study revealed that women who exercised had significantly less depression and anxiety compared to those who did not exercise. [2]

2017 Update:  Yoga and other mind-body interventions can play a large part of the healing process as well. A 2017 review of 18 research studies looked at how yoga and other mind-body interventions such as qi gong, tai chi and meditation impacted health. The researchers found mind-body interventions change the expression of genes associated with chronic inflammation (and we all know that cancer is an inflammatory process), as well as having many other wide-ranging health benefits. [3]

What Sort of Exercise Is Best?

This is a hotly debated topic.  Some think that you need to get out there and sweat and work your butt off for exercise to be therapeutic but that simply isn’t the case.  A good 45-minute yoga session can be just as effective on body and mind as going for a run.

Some outgoing women love to dance and will join dance classes.  Some prefer gentle stretching and the mind/body connection that yoga provides, while others would much rather go for a solo walk in the woods with their dog.  My best advice is to do what you love because you are more apt to do it more frequently if you love it.

Hate to Exercise?

If you don’t love exercise, here are some ideas for you:

  • Get a stationary bicycle and read while you’re on it – or watch your favorite TV show
  • Walk or run to the grocery store to buy one or two items
  • Try Zumba, it’s a blast
  • Water aerobics can be fun
  • Buy a yoga or dance or aerobics DVD by somebody who’s nice to look at!
  • Try belly dancing or tennis or roller blading
  • Get a workout buddy and make a pact to keep exercising even when you don’t feel like it – research shows that if someone else’s workout depends on yours, you will be more likely to exercise, so as not to disappoint or let down the other person
  • Get an iPod and choose music you love to exercise to and put that on a playlist – music can be a great distraction
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park your car at the far end of the parking lot
  • If your kids have a PlayStation or Wii, there are dancing games and fitness programs you might enjoy
  • Gardening is good exercise
  • Hiking is rewarding and great exercise
  • Play Frisbee with your kids or grandkids (or your dog!)

We have to stop thinking about exercise as a nuisance. Our bodies were designed to move!  Once you find the thing that you love to do, it becomes a joy and you really notice the difference on the days you don’t exercise.  So get out there and move!


[1] Effects of exercise on fatigue, physical functioning, and emotional distress during radiation therapy for breast cancer —;jsessionid=tUx3m0KS51NQDcfbZZjz.0

[2] The effect of aerobic exercise on self-esteem and depressive and anxiety symptoms among breast cancer survivors –

[3] What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices –

GET MY BEST TIPS on healthy ways to beat breast cancer and prevent recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

Favorite Inspirational Quote #6

Today’s favorite inspirational quote comes from Dr Bernie Siegel, whose knowledge and understanding of the capacity for humans to heal is truly remarkable.

In “Healers on Healing” Dr Siegel prefaces the comment below about telling his patients of the importance of living as if they were going to die at any moment.

I learned to live this way after my breast cancer diagnosis, and it seemed as important to me then as it does now, 8 years later.  Once you’ve had cancer and faced your own mortality, the things that used to weigh you down don’t seem to matter so much anymore.

I learned that every single day is a treasured gift and I began looking for that special moment within each day (I call it my “TSM” – today’s special moment) and I keep a journal of them.  I digress.

Favorite Inspirational Quote #6

Dr Siegel states: “Of course, there is always grief when we lose a loved one.  But we must learn to take that pain and to love others with it.  Consider those who have lived ninety, ninety-five, or one hundred years.  They may have lost their spouses, their children, and many other loved ones.  Yet after such terrible losses, people find the strength to go on, because they learn to love others.  We cannot outlive everyone we love if we choose to keep loving new people.  This is what survivors do: They roll the love on continuously.  Thus healing, like love, becomes a never-ending process.”

If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook ( and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey.

The Healing Power of The Kiss

The Healing Power of the Kiss

I came across an interesting statistic today that fired up my imagination: I read that a kiss stimulates 34 muscles and lots of hormones and chemicals known as neurotransmitters.

So I decided to investigate.  According to researcher Dr Andrew Scholey (wouldn’t you love to be a kiss researcher?  what fun!) senior lecturer in psychology at Northumbria University, the reason kissing feels so nice is because of the disproportionately large area of the brain dedicated to lip and tongue movements. He stated that “Only finger or hand movements occupy as much brain space.”

Apparently, a multitude of changes is going on in our bodies when we kiss – here’s the breakdown.

The Electric Moment

The moment your lips meet is often described as electric, and apparently that’s exactly what it is.  Studies using electrodes on people’s lips during a kiss showed electric currents flowing along the nerves from the brain to all of the 34 facial muscles. Hence, those tingly sensations!

A Flood of Hormones and Neurotransmitters

Kissing stimulates the primitive part of the brain involved in automated functions (the four Fs: feeding, fighting, flight and, um, mating).  “As you kiss, signals received by nerve endings in the lips are sent to the limbic system, which releases hormones that tell the pituitary glands to produce gonadotrophin.  This hormone attaches itself to the ovaries, causing the release of estrogen and testosterone, which increase sexual excitement,” says Dr Scholey.

Another hormone released at this point is oxytocin (which is also secreted during breastfeeding and orgasm, and promotes caring feelings towards your partner or baby – sometimes referred to as the “bonding” hormone).

Your growing excitement causes a rise in the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline and adrenaline causes blood to switch from the stomach to the limbs, ready for fight or flight and turning off digestion.  As your heart rate increases, blood rushes to the surface, making your body warmer and creating a rosy glow!  It also causes your whole body to receive more oxygen than it does when you’re just standing around.  At rest, your heart beats about 60 to 80 times a minute, but mid-kiss this accelerates to over 100 (unless of course you’re kissing your mother…).

As adrenaline increases, levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin fall – this keeps you focused and less likely to want to break off to go feed the cat.  As serotonin drops, so do your inhibitions, making you more impulsive.

Once your kiss reaches its peak, your body is working overtime – it makes you feel nice by releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine into the brain, which intensifies your desire.

That light-headed feeling is from the release of endorphins, the brain’s natural opium-like substances.  Endorphins produce the euphoria most people feel during a good kiss – they make us go all gooey.  Do you ever wonder why you feel better after a long run, a good laugh or a great kiss? It comes from a release of endorphins.

So – wow!  More oxygen (always a good thing), dopamine and endorphins that make you feel good.  I think we should incorporate kissing into our healing plan – what do you think, girls?

If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook ( and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey.

The Most Helpful Yoga Position After Latissimus Dorsi Flap Surgery

Fabulous After Latissimus Dorsi Flap Breast Reconstruction

If you’ve just had a breast reconstruction and your surgeon utilized the Latissimus Dorsi Flap procedure, you’ll want to know about this helpful yoga position called Balasana.

Once your incisions have healed, the drains have been removed, you are no longer sore and your surgeon says it’s okay, I recommend doing this yoga position just as soon as you can manage it.

Click here to see the video (skip the ad!).

Don’t worry if you can’t get into the position initially, it’s most likely something you can work towards.  Just go as far as is comfortable for you on the day.

Why To Do It!

While this type of breast reconstruction surgery can be wonderful and give you back your figure, it can provide problems.

This surgery can really curtail your range of motion on the affected side if you are not proactive.

I found this particular yoga position so beneficial because it’s gentle, it really helped with my range of motion, it cuts down on adhesions (which can be caused by the newly formed uniting tissues – adhesions can block circulation and cause pain, limited movement, and inflammation) and really helps you to reclaim your body.

I also found deep tissue massage to be extremely beneficial.

How Often?

Do this yoga position at least 5 times a week!  It doesn’t take long, and it really does help so much.  May it be the beginning of a wonderful new relationship between you and yoga.

If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook ( and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey.


Join Marnie's Breast Care Community

Enter your details below to receive my informative newsletter and I'll also send you a copy of my 2 eBooks as my gift to you!

Success! Go check your e-mail and confirm your email address so that I can send your gift.