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How can exercise help fatigue in breast cancer patients?

Fatigue is a very common symptom in people being treated for cancer. This is often not an ordinary type of tiredness but a "bone-weary" exhaustion that doesn't get better with rest. For some, this fatigue lasts a long time after treatment, and can make it hard for them to exercise and do other things they want to do. But exercise can actually help you reduce fatigue. Studies have shown that patients who follow an exercise program tailored to their personal needs feel better physically and emotionally and can cope better, too.
Any program of physical activity should fit your own situation. If you haven't exercised in a few years but can still get around, you may want to think about taking short walks. If you are very tired, you will need to balance activity with rest. It is OK to rest when you need to. 
Talk with your health care team before starting, and get their opinion about your exercise plans. Exercise can improve your physical and emotional health.

• It improves your cardiovascular (heart and circulation) fitnes
• It strengthens your muscles.

• It reduces fatigue.

• It lowers anxiety and depression.

• It makes you feel generally happier.

• It helps you feel better about yourself.

The role of exercise in reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence (cancer coming back) is not well-defined, but several recent studies suggest that breast cancer survivors who are physically active may have lower rates of recurrence and death than those who are inactive.
Joanne Duncan-Carnesciali, CPT,NASM Elite Trainer
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
I applaud you for considering exercise as an approach to increasing your energy as far as your condition is concerned.

There is much research to support the positive benefits to be derived by individuals living with cancer or cancer survivors, who participate in regular physical activity.

For example, in 1998 a study was undertaken by Drs. Rimeo, Rumberger and Keul where a treadmill test was performed to determine if  cancer treatment-related fatigue could be reduced in cancer patients.  At the conclusion of this study, it was revealed that aerobic exercise with defined intensity, duration and frequency alleviated cancer or cancer treatment related fatigue.  In addition, a study undertaken by Mock et al in 1997 found that breast cancer patients had less severe symptoms of fatigue as well as less anxiety and less difficulty sleeping, following exercise.  As a result of this study, the authors found that individuals living with cancer who participated in home-based walking programs were better able to manage treatment symptoms.

If you are looking to engage in regular physical activity to help you manage fatigue related to your condition, I encourage you to seek out the services of a exercise specialist with experience designing individualized exercise prescriptions specifically for cancer survivors or individuals living with cancer.  The exercise specialist you should seek should hold credentials through the  American College of Sports Medicine as Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologists, Clinical Exercise Specialists, Cancer Exercise Trainers or individuals who hold credentials through the Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute (RMCRI) at the University of Northern Colorado.

By using the services of the above-referenced specialists, you can be assured that they have specific knowledge and understanding related to the physiological changes that occur in individuals living with or survivors of cancer so that he/she design a fitness program to meet your specific needs.
Mirabai Holland
Physiology
Easy aerobic exercise for cancer patients can help to lessen fatigue, reduce inflammation,
increase hemoglobin levels, keep muscles in shape for better every day activities, increase self confidence, reduce depression, and aid in recovery of surgery.
Other research has shown strength and flexibility exercises have helped patients return to a normal activity level sooner. Exercise and social support seem to increase the life expectancy of breast cancer survivors, preventing recurrance.
At the beginning, gentle move a few minutes at a time, and build up at your own pace.
Try walking, light aerobics or swimming. As you get stronger, add a couple of days a week of light resistance training. On days you feel more tired, try doing some stretches.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.