Regular exercise during and following breast cancer treatment can help to improve physical and emotional wellbeing, including your mood, sleep, and bone mineral density. Exercise can also help you to manage some of the physical side effects of breast cancer treatment, such as fatigue and pain.
"Exercise is essential to healing my body. I think of it as part of my treatment – just like I have my chemotherapy, I go for a swim or bike ride." – Amanda
When can I start exercising?
You can start exercising any time during or after treatment for breast cancer. In general, the earlier you start the better; however, it is never too late.
How much exercise should I do?
Research suggests that any amount of exercise is better than none, and more is generally better than less. It is recommended that women diagnosed with breast cancer undertake the same amount of exercise as is recommended for all Australian adults – at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate intensity exercise per week (or 30 minutes five times a week).
‘Moderate intensity exercise’ makes breathing a bit harder, but does not make you feel completely out of breath.
What sorts of exercise are suitable?
It doesn't really matter what you do -- the important thing is to find something you enjoy. Exercises that you can try include:
- walking or jogging
- swimming or water aerobics
- gym classes, such as aerobics or step classes
- yoga or Pilates
- dragon boating.
What about incidental exercise?
Incidental exercise is exercise you get doing regular daily activities such as housework, gardening and walking the dog. It can contribute to your weekly exercise total if it is done at moderate intensity.
Should I be concerned about lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema, or swelling of the arm, hand or breast, is a condition that sometimes develops in women who have lymph nodes removed or damaged during breast cancer treatment. Regular exercise can help to reduce your risk of developing lymphoedema. If you already have lymphoedema, regular exercise has been shown to help manage symptoms.
The Lymphoedema page has more information on how to reduce your risk of Lymphoedema.
"Aqua aerobics has really helped the lymphoedema in my arm. The water acts like a gentle massage." – Ann
Tips to stay motivated:
- Organise to exercise with a friend or family member.
- Tell your friends and family that you want to exercise regularly and ask them to encourage you.
- Alternate the type of exercise you do to help to keep things interesting.
- Listen to music or a podcast while exercising to keep your mind occupied.
- Include some exercise in your plan for the day -- if it's in the plan you are more likely to do it.
- Keep track of the exercise you complete in a diary.
"Whenever I exercise, I sleep better and my aches and pains lessen. Your body can recover; you can become strong and healthy again." – Heather
BCNA’s Breast Cancer and Exercise booklet
BCNA’s Breast Cancer and Exercise booklet is designed to help women diagnosed with breast cancer to exercise regularly, and provides more information on exercise for women, including practical tips to help you stay motivated. Further details on how to obtain a copy are below.
- The fact sheets and booklets page allows you to download BCNA’s Breast Cancer and Exercise booklet, which contains practical tips to help you include exercise into your daily routine. You can order a free copy by visiting our online shop.
- Download the excercise diary to help you keep track of the exercise you achieve (see below).
- Read the summer 2012 edition of The Beacon magazine (issue 61), which focuses on keeping active after a breast cancer diagnosis.
- Read BCNA's Exercise and You Survey 2009 Report.
- The page on Lymphoedema has more information on how to prevent and manage lymphoedema.
- The Dragons Abreast website has more information on Dragon Boating.
- The YWCA Encore website has for more information on the Encore exercise program.