Exercise is safe and effective during and after most types of cancer treatment, including breast cancer. As such, it must be included as an integral part of your breast cancer care plan. Over two decades of research support a link between a physically active lifestyle and positive physiological and psychological changes in cancer survivors, which is why we emphasize exercise oncology for all patients.

Regular exercise leads to improvements in VO2, i.e., the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise, which, in turn, improves healthy blood pressure, heart and lung function, gas exchange, and blood volume. Consequently, exercising during and after cancer care improves your muscular strength, anxiety, depression, body image, emotional well-being, immunity, and overall quality of life.

What are the Physical Activity Guidelines?

There are a number of recommendations for physical activity, based largely on observational epidemiological research linking exercise and cancer risk. The most current recommendations for prevention and survival come from the World Cancer Research Fund, American Institute for Cancer Research, American Cancer Society, and American College of Sports Medicine.

More research has been provided discussing the benefits of exercise with a risk reduction in cancer diagnosis. Little research, however, has been done on the benefits of exercise with cancer survivorship, so current recommendations reflect prevention guidelines with some treatment- and disease-specific modifications.

Most guidelines include moderate physical activity, such as a brisk walk, for at least 30 minutes every day, and strength training and stretching of major muscle groups a minimum of 2 days each week. Below, we provide an overview of the American College of Sports Medicine’s physical activity guidelines for patients with cancer.

ACSM Physical Activity Guidelines:

  • Aerobic Training: Walking, cycling, swimming, cross-training, dancing, and other aerobic exercises increase your heart rate and improve blood circulation. You should ideally do 20 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise for 3 to 5 days a week, at 40 to 60% of your heart rate reserve (HRR).
  • Strength Training: Weightlifting and training with resistance balls, resistance bands, and machines can improve your muscular strength and endurance. You should ideally do 8 to 12 reps of each exercise for up to 3 sets, 2 to 3 days a week. You should complete the exercise at 40 to 60% of your heart rate reserve (HRR).
  • Flexibility Training: Static stretching allows you to relax and stretch your major muscle groups, improving your strength and flexibility. You should perform each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, 2 to 7 days a week. You should stretch to the point of mild discomfort.

Schedule an Appointment

New England Breast and Wellness takes a holistic and personalized approach to your breast cancer care. We curate a personalized exercise plan according to your specific goals and capabilities, gradually increasing the intensity and frequency as your body is attuned to the changes. We may also modify the exercise plan at various stages in your cancer recovery journey. Please schedule an appointment to learn more about exercise oncology in Wellesley.

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