Fitness and Exercise

Combining cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and yoga helps with recovery following all types of breast surgery, and during and after breast cancer treatments.

What is fitness?

It seems like the answer should be obvious, but in the context of breast surgery or breast cancer treatment, fitness will be different things to different people. But fitness is an important part of preparation for and recovery from surgery or other medical interventions. Fitness involves various aspects of your health, including mobility, strength, balance, heart and lung capacity, and energy.

If you’ve just had surgery, or if you’re going through cancer treatment, particularly chemotherapy, exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing. However, there is strong evidence that physical activity, including strength training, improves recovery time, enhances mood, reduces the risk of adverse side effects including lymphedema, and even reduces the risk of cancer recurrence. It makes sense, then, to add cardio, flexibility and strength training to your surgery preparation and recovery or to your cancer care and rehabilitation.

Exercise for patients having breast surgery

Mobility and range of motion, healthy heart, good overall health – if you have these before surgery, you increase your chance of recovering more quickly.

Exercise for patients with breast cancer

If regular exercise was part of your lifestyle before your diagnosis, it is helpful to maintain as much of your activities as possible throughout your cancer treatment. If you were not particularly active before, you can benefit from introducing an exercise routine as part of your treatment and recovery.

According to the American Cancer Association, exercise during cancer treatment offers many benefits:

  • Improves balance and coordination (and therefore reduces the chance of falls and fractures)

  • Keeps muscles from wasting (good muscle tone helps support the lymphatic system, lessening the chance of lymphedema or flare-ups)

  • Lessens nausea

  • Reduces fatigue

  • Improves blood flow, which may help reduce the chance of blood clots

  • Helps to maintain a healthy weight

  • Offers a way of coping with anxiety or depression

  • Provides the overall heart and general health benefits associated with exercise

  • Adding strength training and aerobic exercise to your cancer treatment plan will help you get through your cancer treatment and get back to feeling more like you again.


Yoga is one of the most popular complementary health practices in North America.  It is used by healthcare professionals as a safe and effective approach to help people with a variety of health conditions. If you can find a time to practice yoga just a few times per week, you will find that it makes a noticeable difference when it comes to your health. Research has shown that yoga can be used to help improve high blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, metabolism and body temperature. Yoga can improve your strength, flexibility, balance, bone health, cardiovascular health, breathing patterns and other physiological systems. It can help decrease pain and inflammation. It is endorsed by the Canadian Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society and can help people living with cancer by relieving their symptoms of treatment.  It has also been shown to increase a sense of spiritual well-being by relieving stress, anxiety, and depression as well as aiding with fatigue and sleep problems. For more information on the benefits of yoga for breast cancer check out our recent blog post.

Fitness for Breast Rehab

Whatever your current level of physical activity, Breast Rehab therapists can work with you to design exercise routines specific to your needs that fit in with your lifestyle. We usually recommend combining cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and yoga in a routine that’s tailor-made for you. Strength training doesn’t have to involve a gym membership or complicated exercises. You can use simple and portable aids such as tubing or elastic bands, or even your own body weight, to exercise at home. Stretching can also alleviate axillary web syndrome and can help break the cording to improve your mobility and range of motion. Try to aim for an average of 20 to 30 minutes of exercise a day, including strength training at least twice a week.

The team at Breast Rehab can design an exercise plan especially for you. Getting you moving is a big part of getting you back to doing what you love.