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One of the Most Important Things You Can Do as a Breast Cancer Survivor

Eating Right & Exercising!

Would you believe us if we told you that going to the gym is almost as important as taking your breast cancer pills? We all know that a healthy weight and daily exercise is very important for cardiovascular(CAR-DEE-O-VAS-CUE-LAR) — Relating to the heart and blood vessels health. A lesser-known fact is that exercise also helps decrease your risk of developing breast cancer, whether you are trying to prevent a new diagnosis or recurrent cancer(REE-CER-ENT CAN-SIR) — The return of cancer after a period of time following initial diagnosis.1

Regular exercise can help with many aspects of post-treatment life, like managing your weight and dealing with fatigue. Surprisingly, exercising is the only thing proven to decrease fatigue.2 While it may not make sense, a bit of activity, as little as walking, may help you regain some of your energy. Additionally, a healthy weight can improve your mood and mental health, decrease joint pain, and reduce your risk for diseases like diabetes(DIE-AH-BEE-TEES) — A disease where a person’s blood sugars are higher than normal, eventually leading to serious medical issues and heart disease(HART DUH-ZEEZ) — A condition that affects the hearts function, which can lead to chest pain and heart attacks.

plate of food
If you’re already a healthy weight and work out daily, congratulations! You’re ahead of most people.

But if you don’t already exercise, remember to start small with reachable goals. Start by talking to your doctor about what you can do. Once you have the green light, leisurely walks with your dog are not enough. Think of your sweat as cancer repellant. Try to get out there and get your heart rate up every day.

That might sound like a lot of work, but part of exercising is having the right attitude. Think of exercise as something fun. It is a chance to go outside in the sun or give yourself 30 minutes of “me time,” away from your work or kids. Having a positive attitude towards exercise will make you more likely to continue. 

Keep in mind that exercise and a healthy diet go hand-in-hand; exercise is not enough on its own. It’s good for maintaining your weight, but you must diet to lose weight. The word diet might have just made you cringe a little, but again, it’s all about attitude.

To help you out, here are a few easy tips: 
  • Set a small weight loss goal. 
  • Give yourself plenty of time. Try a pound a week, instead of 10. 
  • Eat some veggies. 
  • Limit those sugary drinks and desserts. 
  • Give up alcohol; it has a lot of calories. If you do drink, limit yourself to one a day. But you either use it or lose it. You can’t “bank” your drinks and carry them forward. 
Don’t know how to get started? Try using a food journal.

The key to food journaling is to write down not only your weight but also what you eat every day. The catch? You must be honest. If you don’t meet your weight goals, that’s okay. Your goal was just to write it down. If you need help getting started or staying on course, there are many different apps or weight management programs that can help you do just this.

  1. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Survivorship (Version 2.2016). National Comprehensive Cancer Network. https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/survivorship.pdf. Accessed February 14, 2017. 
  2. Voigt V, Neufeld F, Kaste J, et al. Clinically assessed posttraumatic stress in patients with breast cancer during the first year after diagnosis in the prospective, longitudinal, controlled COGNICARES study. Psycho-Oncology. 2016;26(1):74-80.
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