Breast Cancer Survivors Cope Better When They Exercise
 by: Mary Holihan

Breast cancer survivors benefit in many ways from exercise, the most important being life extension, according to a respected study of breast cancer called the Nurses' Health Study. This is the first study to show that being physically active actually increases the odds that breast cancer patients will survive the disease.

More and more studies are showing that lifestyle factors have a major effect on cancer quality of life after diagnosis, but now it shows that they have a strong impact on cancer survival as well. The benefit was the greatest for women with "hormone receptive" breast cancer, which is the most common formResearch has shown that exercise lowers the levels of estrogen which can fuel the growth of breast cancer cells.

The study found that breast cancer patients who walk or do other kinds of moderate exercise for three to five hours a week are about 50 percent less likely to die from the disease than women who do not exercise, adding support to the theory that a healthy lifestyle can offer protection against cancer recurrence. One of the pleasant surprises was that you don't have to run a marathon to get these benefits: as little as three to five hours of brisk walking offered the desired protection. In addition, it did not matter if exercise was done an hour at a time or broken up into half hour segments; this makes an exercise plan workable for just about every breast cancer survivor.

Physical activity is not considered a substitute for medical treatment, such as mastectomy or removal of a tumor (lumpectomy) and radiation, chemotherapy or adjutant drug therapy afterwards, as recommended by the patient's medical team. But as an added therapy, the study indicates that there is a great deal of additional benefit to be derived from exercise.

One of the main problems is that many breast cancer victims feel too exhausted to exercise. But this study shows that breast cancer patients should try to exercise regularly after they have undergone the standard treatments if they want to improve their chances of survival. Most women find that, after having to "push" themselves to a certain extent to do their exercise routine, they come to rely on it and find they have more energy and even look better because of it. Of course, health care professionals have long known that regular exercise reduces the chances of developing many diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. But this study is the first to show that exercise can reduce the death rate among women who have had breast cancer. An added benefit is that exercise increases the patient's wellbeing and quality of life.

Lack of funds or time to join a gym is not even a very good excuse not to exercise, since one of the easiest, quickest and least expensive exercises to choose is walking. And the choice is yours: walking

1) Choose your program- morning or evening, one long walk or two smaller strolls, 3, 4, 5 or more times a week.

2) Choose your locale- would you rather just walk out the door and start walking, or would you rather drive to a scenic locale nearby?

3) Choose your sociability level- find a walking partner, or just plug into your MP3 or IPOD and go it alone, or be a purist and just stroll along appreciating the sights and sounds of the day.

The idea is that your workout can be designed with your schedule, personality and location in mind, so all you have to do is strap on those sneakers and GO!
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