Monday, November 2, 2009

No Marathon Necessary

Exercise has proven to increase the chances of breast cancer survival. A study done by Dr. Michelle Holmes, MD, Dr Ph of Harvard Medical School found that “after 10 years of follow-up, 92% of the women who exercised 3-5 hours per week (or about half an hour per day) were still alive, compared to 86% of those who got less than an hour a week of physical activity” (JAMA Vol. 293, No. 20: 2479-2486). The benefits are limitless for both physical and psychological function for the current fighter as well as the ongoing survivor.

Cancer hits close to home for many and it seems that you always know at least one person affected if not yourself. So whether you are the fighter or supporter there are many physical and psychological benefits of incorporating physical activity to your life. Improvements include an increase in functional capacity, decreased nausea and fatigue (if currently going through treatment), improved mood, self-esteem and quality of life as well as a decreased risk of lymphedema and osteoporosis. Activity combined with healthy choices made in your diet can help manage weight gain often associated with treatment, providing physical and psychological healing for optimal health.

So now what? Your exercise program will vary depending on where you are at in your journey. Incorporating strength training, cardiovascular training and stretching into your daily routine will help you find the physical and psychological benefits talked about above. Before beginning your exercise program, consult with your doctor or physical therapist for release in activity.

Range of Motion: Scar tissue can continue to develop up to two years after surgery thus it is important to maintain the range of motion in the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder. Begin movement as early as possible in your diagnosis.

Sample Exercises include:

Wall climbing
Child’s pose
Chest and Tricep stretch

Cardiovascular Exercise: Mode of exercise and duration should be modified depending on the side effects caused by treatment. Generally walking or biking are beneficial modes of activity. It is best to start with 5-10 minutes taking into account your body’s reaction to movement From there you can increase your duration as necessary with a long term goal of 20-30 minutes of continuous activity. It is OK and you most likely will start with bouts of 5-10 minutes working your way to continuous activity.

Strength Training: Once range of motion of the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder are achieved, strength training can be incorporated. Depending on your situation, wearing compression sleeves is recommended. Starting with light weights (i.e. 1 pound) an emphasis should be placed on the back, shoulder girdle and arm. Two sets of 10 repetitions is a good start then gauging your body’s response, increase or decrease the number of sets and repetitions. Strength Training of the lower body can be conducted as usual and tolerated.

Sample Exercises include:
Frontal Raise
Rotator Cuff External Rotation

It is important to understand that by adding activity into your journey does not mean running a marathon; even the smallest bouts of activity can make a difference. Adding exercise is one part of the process you can control without the horrible side effects the rest of your treatment may bring.

Link to Journal of the American Medical Association article mentioned in opening paragraph

At the club we offer Focus on Healing classes based on the Lebed Method. This method focuses on stimulation of the lymphatic system reducing the risk of lymphedema, increase energy and weight stabilization. See our group exercise schedule for class times and days.

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