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The role of exercise/yoga and physical activity for breast cancer patients

The role of exercise in breast cancer treatment represents a key and increasingly recognized aspect of holistic care for individuals facing this challenging health problem. In addition to its traditional benefits in improving physical fitness, exercise has proven to be a key ally in the fight against breast cancer, contributing to both the physical and emotional well-being of patients. In this article, we will discuss the importance of exercise and yoga in breast cancer treatment.

The role of exercise in the treatment of breast cancer:

Dr Annu Prasad, who is an Ayurvedic consultant at Birla Ayurveda mentioned that rregular exercise helps reduce physical and mental stress, while increasing oxygen levels in the body.

  • Exercise before, during and after receiving radiation, hormonal and targeted therapies, as well as before, during and after undergoing chemotherapy and surgery.
  • There is no doubt that being overweight or obese increases the chances of getting a number of cancers, including breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Immune system activity, inflammation, and levels of estrogen and IGF-1 are thought to play a role in the relationship between obesity and breast cancer.
  • Restoring or improving physical function, aerobic capacity, strength, flexibility, body image, body composition, quality of life, ability to physically and psychologically cope with any current and/or future cancer treatment, and ability to cope with the anxiety of living with current or recurrent disease are all indications for exercise therapy in this patient population. In addition, signs include reducing the long-term and late effects of cancer treatment and possibly delaying any recurrence or progression of the disease.
  • Pilates exercises increase physical endurance, flexibility and postural control, and in industrialized countries women often accept them as a form of exercise. Pilates exercises significantly improve functional capacity, fatigue, flexibility and quality of life in women with breast cancer compared to a control group, a randomized clinical trial has found.

Yoga poses that can help:

Yoga can be soothing and rejuvenating. Yoga is another form of contemplative exercise that breast cancer patients can benefit from as it incorporates breathing, posture, flexibility and physical strength exercises. Research on breast cancer patients was published in 2013 and found that weekly yoga therapy improved physical function.

A few cancer-related yoga poses suggested by Dr. Annu Prasad that can be practiced are:

1- Balasana

2- Pranayama

3- Uttanasan

4- Viparita Karani

5- Savasana

Physical activity required for breast cancer patients:

Chitharesh Natesan, a fitness enthusiast, said, “The importance of exercise in the breast cancer journey cannot be overemphasized. Exercise is emerging as a powerful ally in the fight against breast cancer, offering hope and tangible benefits. Tailored to individual abilities, physical activity is a fundamental element of treatment.” breast cancer, building strength, mitigating adverse effects of treatment, and improving overall quality of life.Exercise can combat the fatigue and weakness that commonly accompanies chemotherapy and radiation, providing a powerful antidote to the emotional strain that this disease imposes, fostering a positive outlook, and reducing stress. In addition, exercise helps with weight control, which is a key factor in reducing the chance of breast cancer coming back. It also improves cardiovascular health, an important concern for breast cancer survivors. For those with breast cancer, exercise is usually safe during treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.”

Yash Agarwal who is the founder of Yash Fitness shared the following exercise tips for breast cancer patients:

  • Consult your healthcare team: Always seek medical advice before starting any exercise regimen.
  • Gradual progression: Start with low-intensity activities and slowly increase the intensity over time.
  • Aerobic exercise: Engage in activities such as walking, swimming or cycling to improve cardiovascular health.
  • Strength training: Include weight lifting or resistance band exercises to build muscle and bone strength.
  • Flexibility exercises: Practice stretching to maintain joint mobility and prevent stiffness.
  • Balance exercises: Improve stability with yoga or tai chi to reduce the risk of falls.
  • Frequency: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.
  • Intensity: Exercise at a level that gets your heart rate up but allows you to hold a conversation.
  • Rest days: Include rest days to allow your body to recover and prevent overexertion.
  • Warm-up and cool-down: Always start with a warm-up and finish with a cool-down to prevent injury.
  • Postural Awareness: Focus on maintaining good posture during exercises to avoid strain.
  • Target different muscle groups: Provide a balanced workout by targeting different muscle groups.
  • Pain relief: Tell your doctor about any discomfort so he can adjust your exercise routine.
  • Vital signs monitoring: monitor heart rate and blood pressure during exercise.
  • Bone health: Weight-bearing exercises like walking can improve bone density.
  • Lymphedema Precautions: If you have lymphedema, wear compression garments and avoid strenuous activity.
  • Fatigue management: Exercise can combat cancer-related fatigue, but adjust intensity based on energy levels.
  • Nutritional support: maintain a balanced diet to support your physical activity.
  • Hydration: Stay well hydrated, especially during exercise.
  • Sleep: Prioritize good sleep hygiene for recovery.
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure: Protect your skin during outdoor activities to prevent skin damage.

(Disclaimer: The information provided in this article, including treatment suggestions shared by doctors, is for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding the health condition.)

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