top of page
  • Carol Michaels

When To Start A Cancer Exercise Program

When can you start a exercise program after having cancer surgery and treatments? You should start stretching exercises as soon as you get clearance from your doctor. It is important to talk to your doctor before starting to exercise. This way you can determine what program is right for you. Some exercises can be started soon after cancer surgery while others can be done right after the drains and stitches are removed.

Cancer Exercises to Not Have to Be High Intensity

When some people hear the word exercise, they immediately think about difficult gym class exercise or boot camp. The exercises that I will discuss are gentle, fun and effective. They are not high intensity. Exercise might be the last thing on your mind after a cancer diagnosis.

A good fitness program will help you build up your strength, improve your mood and will help your recovery.

Breast Cancer Patients Complain of Stiffness and Less Flexibility

Many areas of the body can be affected by breast cancer surgery and treatments. A lot of people complain about stiffness, pulling, tightness, and having less flexibility. The muscles and skin are shortened because of the surgery and there is scar tissue. Some of the nerves may be irritated. You may feel burning, tingling, or numbness. We want to restore the patient to a level of fitness that they enjoyed prior to the surgery. Initially, one of the goals of this program is to restore a person’s range of motion and break down scar tissue.

At the start of your exercise program the cancer exercise specialist will take range of motion measurements of the shoulder. I take flexion, extension and abduction measurements. For example the participant may begin with only 30 degrees of shoulder flexion and after several months improve to 170 degrees of flexion range of motion. In an ideal situation it is helpful to take these measurements prior to the surgery. This gives you a basis of comparison.

Once you have achieved an acceptable range of motion, it is usually necessary to continue your stretching program in order to maintain the flexibility that has been achieved. If you have radiation, stretching is very important to help keep your body flexible. Radiation typically causes additional tightening. Radiation can impact the affected area for up to 9 months or longer after the treatment is finished.

Aerobic Exercise Essential For Cancer Fitness

Aerobic exercise is essential. That would include any movement which elevates your heart rate. As soon as you have medical clearance it is good to start walking. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause fatigue. It may seem counter-intuitive, but physical activity can help decrease fatigue and help you improve your ability to tolerate cancer treatments.

Walking can boost your energy. You might be able to walk only 1 house distance at first. Every day try to walk further until you are able to walk for a half hour to 45 minutes. Try to exercise when you feel the least tired. You may feel exhausted at various times during treatment and recovery especially during chemo or radiation. When you feel better, try to do more. Ultimately the workout will help energize you and ease the aches and pains.

Exercise Emotionally Healthy During Cancer Treatments

Exercise is good for our emotional health during and after cancer treatments. It is one thing that you can control. It is one thing that you can do for yourself. The studies are leading us to believe that exercise can decrease the risk of recurrence. It is empowering. Physical activity can decease depression and anxiety.

Participants in my program reduce stress, increase confidence and build positive health habits. The participants will also gain endurance, and energy level and decrease fatigue, which may be caused by treatments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page