How Exercise Helps Battle Breast Cancer

If you've been paying attention to your doctor or health-related media, you're probably aware of the most important means to battle breast cancer. Self-exams, mammograms, regular doctor visits and healthy diet are all important components for prevention and early detection of breast cancer.

What may surprise you, however, is the role that exercise plays in preventing and battling breast cancer. Take a look at the role exercise plays during the pre-diagnosis, treatment, and post-treatment stages of breast cancer.

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Pre-Diagnosis

Even if you haven't been diagnosed with breast cancer, it's never too soon to start using exercise as a tool to beat it. One recent research study tracked more than 1,200 women between the ages of 20 and 54 for eight to 10 years.

Researchers found that women who were very active at the time of their cancer diagnosis had a 30 percent higher survival rate than their sedentary counterparts.

In other words, getting active now can help you battle a potential cancer diagnosis in the future.

More: 7 Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer

During Treatment

In the past, women were advised to avoid exercise while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Today, doctors are now touting the benefits of exercise. Not only does exercise promote better blood flow through the body and the brain, but it also improves mood and helps to minimize depression and anxiety.

Additionally, exercise increases muscle strength. Since muscle mass is often lost during treatment, patients are now encouraged to work large muscle groups.

Perhaps most notably, exercise during treatment helps to maintain range of motion. Women battling breast cancer often experience pain or numbness in the chest, upper back and armpit.

If the lymph nodes are removed or radiation administered, patients may battle lymphedema, painful swelling in the arm and chest, which is caused by a build-up of protein-rich fluid that hasn't drained properly. Exercise can actually help to prevent lymphedema and frozen shoulder.

One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that women with lymphedema who engage in strength training cut their painful flare-ups in half.

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Fit Survivors

Recently, Jazzercise was at the forefront of a study at the Breast Cancer Survivorship Center at the University of Kansas Cancer Center (BCSC) that strongly indicated the importance of exercise for breast cancer survivors. The participants who attended Jazzercise classes over a six-month period lost 5.6 percent total body fat, 12.6 percent of their starting body weight and 50 percent decrease of insulin level.

Participants also demonstrated increased flexibility, endurance, and heart rate, as well as minimized depression and fatigue.

In essence, researchers concluded that breast cancer survivors who regularly exercise reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

So, if your version of exercise has been walking to the fridge during TV commercials, it's time to add a little more movement into your daily routine.

Start with a simple regimen for about 30 to 45 minutes, three times per week. Increase your intensity as you feel able. Incorporate strength training two or three times per week. If a svelte figure wasn't reason enough to exercise in the past, saving your life is surely enough reason to start now.

More: Battling Breast Cancer on Two Wheels

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Judi Sheppard Missett, who turned her love of jazz dance into a worldwide dance exercise phenomenon, founded the Jazzercise dance fitness program in 1969. The workout program, which offers a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga and cardio box movements, has positively affected millions of people. Benefits include increased cardiovascular endurance, strength and flexibility, as well as an overall "feel good" factor.  For more information go to jazzercise.com or call (800) FIT-IS-IT.

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