Research suggests that exercise can help women being treated for breast cancer by:
- easing nausea during chemotherapy
- improving blood flow to the legs, reducing the risk of blood clots
- easing constipation by stimulating digestion and elimination systems
- revving up your sex drive
- easing fatigue
Fatigue is the most common side effect of breast cancer treatment. Some doctors estimate that 9 out of 10 people experience some fatigue during treatment. Rest doesn’t ease fatigue and it can last for months after treatment ends.
A new review of studies on exercise and cancer-related fatigue adds more and stronger evidence that aerobic exercise can help relieve fatigue associated with cancer and cancer treatment.
The review was published online on Nov. 14, 2012 by The Cochrane Library. The Cochrane Library catalogues information from the Cochrane Collection, a highly respected program that helps doctors and patients decide on the best treatment approaches based on careful analysis of available research.
Read the summary of “The effect of exercise on fatigue associated with cancer.”
A 2008 Cochrane Review on the benefits of exercise found that physical activity sometimes eased cancer-related fatigue based on limited studies.
This new review adds 28 more studies to the 2008 review. Now 56 studies involving more than 4,000 people diagnosed with cancer are included. Half the studies involved people diagnosed with breast cancer.
The review found that aerobic exercise, such as walking or bicycling, both during and after cancer treatment, helped ease fatigue. Other types of exercise, such as resistance training, didn’t seem to reduce fatigue.
If you’re being treated for breast cancer or have been treated in the past, try to make exercise a part of your daily routine. Think of exercise as another important part of your overall treatment plan that helps you recover and stay healthy. Talk to your doctor about how much and how often you should exercise. Ask around and see if any breast cancer support groups near you have organized exercise classes. If you can't find an exercise class through a breast cancer group, consider joining another exercise class or start walking with a friend. There's a good chance that exercising with other people will give you the motivation and support to make regular exercise part of your recovery. Find the right exercise routine for YOU and then do your best to stick with it! It can make a difference both physically and mentally, today and tomorrow.
In the Breastcancer.org Exercise section, you can learn about:
- the benefits of exercise
- types of exercise
- when you can and can't exercise during treatment
- tips on finding a trainer