Day to Day Living: Exercise


Exercise is another area of your life where you can act to promote your health. Regular exercise will help you feel better, and help you reclaim your body, during or after treatment.

Choose a workout or exercise program that is compatible with your interests and lifestyle. Stretching for a few minutes in the morning is free and takes little time. It can help you feel more flexible and invigorated and can make a difference in the way you start your day. Riding a bicycle, swimming, dancing, yoga, aerobics or studying a martial art can tap inner resources of strength and energy, calm the spirit as well as the body, and generate excitement for life.

“Exercising has been an important part of making friends with my changed body. It has helped me to feel assured that I can still do all the things I did before my illness.”

Exercises or activities that put weight or pressure on your arms, while they are in a downward position, can cause lymphedema. You may want to refrain from doing push-ups or lifting weights or other heavy objects. Doing pull-ups or working with weights with your arms in an upright position is safer.

If you develop lymphedema, there are many options for you to explore. Exercise, manual lymph drainage (gentle massage that stimulates the flow of lymphatic fluid), compression bandaging, customized compression sleeves, and pneumatic compression sleeves are some of the options. You should consult a healthcare professional who knows all of the different methods of treatment in order to find out what will work best for you.

Exercise is meant to feel good and can be enjoyed! If your workout bores you, or feels more like a punishment than pleasure, find a new routine. If you have a hard time going it alone, a class or a walking buddy may be what you need. It helps to work out with people you enjoy.

If you want to work out at a health club, find one where the atmosphere is friendly and less competitive. Health clubs, like anyplace else, will differ, and there may be one that feels right for you. Some women feel very self-conscious at health clubs — whether or not they have had breast cancer. You may want to dress in a private area at first. In time you may find that, as you are able to feel more comfortable with your body, others will too.


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