As October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, we aim to discuss the benefits of exercise on the quality of life of breast cancer survivors. Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer in the United States, affecting 1 in 8 women and approximately 1 in 833 men. Until recently, patients were advised to rest and avoid physically challenging activities that were perceived to cause additional burden and fatigue.
It is now known that exercise can improve fitness and physical function, reduce fatigue and moderately support decreasing weight and body fat. However, the optimal type, duration and frequency of exercise is unknown.
Previously, there has been a large emphasis on aerobic exercise for breast cancer survivors and significantly less importance on strength training. Recent studies have shown that no one form of exercise is superior, but rather exercising for at least 45 minutes per session for 3-5 times per week has demonstrated the greatest improvement in quality of life.
However, when we look at the benefits of aerobic exercise on the cardiovascular system and the benefits of strength training on the neuromuscular system, it seems to be clear that a combination of both forms of exercise can have a positive effect on quality of life. Improving cardiopulmonary capacity and functional strength can aid in combating cancer-related fatigue and improve functional capacity to support completing day-to-day activities.
Surviving breast cancer is a large battle in it of itself, but to read that undertaking formal exercise may help to both improve your cancer-related fatigue and lead to improving your overall quality of life can seem overwhelming. However, our licensed physical therapists are here to answer the questions you may have regarding what is the best route to take with this new information. Feel free to stop by our Glendale, Manhasset or Kew Gardens (soon to be Briarwood) locations to set up an initial evaluation to get you moving in the right direction with an individualized plan tailored to meet your goals.
Christian Cardenas, DPT, CSCS
Hong, F., Ye, W., Kuo, C. H., Zhang, Y., Qian, Y., & Korivi, M. (2019). Exercise intervention
improves clinical outcomes, but the “time of session” is crucial for better quality of life in breast cancer survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cancers, 11(5), 706.
Mujtaba, G., Mazhar, A., & Tanzeel, I. (2021). Physical Exercise and Quality of Life in Breast
Cancer Survivors. Int. J. Med. Sci, 18(10).