How Exercise Helps Breast Cancer Survivors

Women who have had breast cancer can and should follow general exercise guidelines, because doing so improves their physical and psychological health, according to a research review published in the World Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina looked at 25 years of studies on exercise and breast cancer survivors. They found consistent evidence that working out improved markers of physical health, mental well-being and functional capacity in women with breast cancer, either while they were undergoing treatment or afterward.

The researchers also found no evidence that exercising at moderate amounts (a few hours a week) and moderate intensity interfered with the women’s breast cancer treatment or recovery. Indeed, women undergoing treatment for breast cancer who exercised reported less fatigue than sedentary women with breast cancer, and the exercisers’ incidence of depression was lower.

When exercise’s effects on breast cancer were first studied, researchers focussed on aerobic workouts. Over time, they’ve broadened the scope to investigate a more complete program that combines aerobic and strength training workouts. This approach is in line with current guidelines for all adults, and is the one the UNC researchers recommend for women with breast cancer.

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