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The Benefits of Exercise

April 1, 2008
by Sami Papacek-Reis

We all know the benefits of exercise for the general population. But when if you are a breast cancer survivor, does it really change things? Absolutely!  When you look at the reasons why breast cancer survivors should exercise, it is more difficult to find reasons NOT to. The challenging part is making the time and finding the energy. If the benefits are important enough for you, we can fit exercise into your schedule. It is also important to understand that moderation is the key. Exercising too intensely will cause additional fatigue and not intense enough will not give you the benefits that you are looking for.
    Although we can’t say that exercise will prevent recurrence, we do know is that there is a significant link between exercise and breast cancer. For the survivor, this vital link may lower your chances of recurrence, keep you strong and healthy as well as increase your overall quality of life.
The benefits…
1. Stress Reduction
2. Relaxation
3. Improved Sleep Patterns
4. Improved Mood
5. Self Confidence
Energy “I want some more of that!”
• Exercise can increase your energy level 
 Can be difficult because fatigue is a side effect from treatment, start a little at a time to not overdo it
 Exercise helps produce endorphins, amino acids that help naturally block pain signals produced by the nervous system
• By doing cardiovascular and strength training consistently, your body will become stronger and have more endurance. This increases daily energy as well as improving your sleep.
  Tasks such as shopping, carrying in groceries, and participating in all day field trips will be much easier because the body will be stronger. Your muscles will be used to heavier work and be able to keep up better. There will not be a need to sit down after bringing in groceries.
Estrogen Regulation
• Some studies have shown that women who exercise regularly have a lower risk of breast cancer
 It is suggested that circulating levels of estrogen are lower in women who exercise regularly
 Body fat if often reduced in women who exercise and body estrogen levels may be decreased 
• Fat cells are the primary source of estrogen in post-menopausal women. Exercise reduces body fat keeping the bodies estrogen at a safer level
 Added fat tissue appears to boost estrogens circulating in the bloodstream, which might play an important role in recurrence of the breast cancer as well as the development of new breast cancer
 Low levels of estrogen can cause fatigue
• Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation are extremely stressful on the body.
 Treatment also breaks down the bone tissue. Engaging in moderate, weight bearing activity slows down the process as well as stimulates the production of bone building nutrients.
 Without muscular support for the skeletal frame, there is less support which can lead to broken bones and sore joints.
• Many women go into a menopausal state after breast cancer. Because of the lower levels of estrogen during this time, there is a decrease in bone density
 Breast cancer cells may speed the loss of calcium from bone as well as hinder its integration into bone. It’s possible that bone is affected in similar ways during chemotherapy.
 Exercise increases bone density and increases lean muscle tissue that supports the skeletal framework of the body.
• Women start to lose bone density (as well as lean muscle mass) after the age of thirty.
 Breast cancer survivors are living longer making this a concern in their lives

Metabolism & Lean Body Mass
• Having more lean muscle on your body is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it provides a greater purpose. It increases your resting metabolism or the calories that you use at rest. This lowers the amount of body fat that is sustained on the body as well. Higher body fat is linked to reoccurrences in breast cancer
 Muscle requires more energy or calories to sustain itself on your body.
 It also takes up less space and had a nicer tighter appearance.
 The muscles main function is to support the skeletal framework, having more support makes daily tasks easier on your body
 Muscles burns calories twice as efficiently as fat
    When muscles are unused or damaged, they become tight and inflexible. After any type of breast surgery when the muscles of the chest, back, stomach etc. have been cut-they need to refuse themselves back together. If this happens without any type of stretching, the muscles typically become tight on one side which compromises the opposing side. For example, for many women, the upper back muscles become weak making it difficult for the shoulder blades to stay drawn back. When this happens, the front part of the shoulders come forward and together creating a tight chest and an overstretched and weak back. This is a very common problem for all women and is exacerbated in women that have gone through any major breast surgery. 
    Exercise helps to stretch the front of the chest and strengthen the back improving the posture as well as the stress placed on the spine and the core of the body.

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