After breast cancer treatment, many women have fatigue and are told to get more rest.  But too much rest can result in more fatigue.  You may have put your exercise routine on hold during treatment, or may have never been an exerciser.  If you want to try exercise to fight fatigue or just to stay healthy, here are a few tips that may help.  Before starting a program, talk with your doctor or nurse to find out if there are any special safety measures you should take.  Exercise is one of the few actions shown to help improve fatigue, sleep and mood.

  • Exercise within your own limits and set realistic goals.
  • Start with regular, light exercise such as walking.  Begin with 5-10 minutes, once or twice every other day.  Over time increase how long you walk.
  • Try new kinds of exercises, then choose those that help to keep or increase your energy.
  • Do something that you like to do.  Decide on something that you enjoy, that will work your heart, and make you stronger and more flexible.  Walking can work your heart.  Lifting weights will make you stronger.  A stretching program will make you more flexible. No one says exercise has to be boring, so make it something you look forward to.
  • Keep a diary of your activity.  Include how you felt during and after your exercise sessions as well as how your sleep was affected.
  • Drink plenty of liquids before, during and after exercise.  Dehydration or thirst will increase feelings of fatigue.
  • On days you feel good, exercise a little longer; on days you feel tired, shorten your exercise schedule or select an easier activity, such as stretching or a gentle movement program.
  • Build up slowly, but be steady.  Try to do a little something each day.  If you feel very tired, take the day off.  But if you just feel a little tired, go ahead and exercise.
  • Wear comfortable clothing, such as a loose-fitting cotton shirt and sweat pants, shorts, or a full skirt.  Try to avoid tight outfits especially those with elastic in the sleeves.
  • Do not bounce or jerk your arms when doing any exercise. Your movements should be slow and smooth.
  • If exercise is not possible try to plan some gentle activity in your daily schedule and slowly increase it at your own pace.
  • Include stretching and relaxation practices at the end of each exercise session.
  • Stop exercising if you have nausea, feel dizzy, have an irregular heartbeat, have pain or any shortness of breath during exercise.
  • Lie on your bed to stretch if you can’t get down on the floor.  Choose a bed with a firm mattress.
  • Find an exercise partner who will help keep you motivated. Sometimes a spouse or partner is willing, or a friend with similar exercise goals can make it more fun. Playing with your kids can also be a fun way for the whole family to get moving together! Go to the park and walk, run, swing, and explore.
  • Staying healthy means making exercise a part of your routine. Exercise should include both aerobic and strength training exercises, so change it up with different exercises for different days of the week, and create new routines every few months. Your health will thank you!

When Do You Need to Seek Help?
Talk to your doctor or nurse before starting an exercise program.  Ask if there are any measures you should take based on your health or treatment.  Also let your doctor or nurse know if you have nausea, feel dizzy, have an irregular heartbeat, have pain or any shortness of breath during exercise.  If you keep an exercise diary bring it with you when going to see the doctor, it will help your doctor decide how exercise can be better used to help fatigue.

Useful websites:
Exercise: A cancer survivor’s tool for wellness
LBBC: Yoga On The Steps

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