Piling on the pounds is one of the many side effects lots of women face after treatment for breast cancer. The strong steroids we are given make us hungry and horrible side effects of chemotherapy make us want to spend most of our time in bed or plonked in front of the TV. I went from being a very active and fit mum to finding climbing the stairs to go to the loo a workout. I’ve managed over the past few months to get my fitness back up and my jeans back on. The ‘Moving Forward’ course I’ve been going to through Breast Cancer Care has given me a lot of great ideas and motivated me into getting back to fitness classes again.
Here are my top tips for getting back in to exercise after cancer:
- Know When Is Right For You
Treatment for breast cancer is so harsh it can take a long time for you to regain your energy. I took things very easy during my treatment and for about two months after I stopped my radiotherapy. I then gradually started walking my dog again and going out for longer walks. I also took a block of basic yoga which was a great way to relax and build strength gradually. Research shows losing weight slowly and steadily is the best way to keep it off and just ten minutes walking a day is a great start.
- Find Something You Enjoy
Yoga, Zumba, the gym, walking, running, cycling, swimming… the options are endless. Try a few things until you find something you enjoy. It is so much easier when exercise lifts your mood as well as improving your health. I love walking with my dog but I get bored easily so I listen to audiobooks while I walk and I love it. It’s a little bit of time just for me, it gets me out of the house and I find it very relaxing. Paying monthly for the Audible app is much more economical than buying the books individually.
- Get A Pal
This makes a huge difference for me. It is so easy to make up an excuse not to go to your class or the gym if it’s just you going. If you’ve got a friend relying on you before you know it you’ll be in a great habit. Make sure you pick someone reliable or you’ll end up ditching more than you turn up. I walk every Wednesday with a great friend of mine, we are so busy gabbing we end up walking for two hours sometimes. Even if it’s raining we both stick on caps and a jacket then brave the rain.
- Make It a Habit
Picking set times to exercise each week really helps to get you into an exercise habit and stop you having the ‘will I won’t I’ debate as it just becomes part of your daily routine. Maybe you go to Yoga on a Tuesday night and swim on a Friday morning. Try to choose times that you will always be free and that you know you won’t find an excuse to duck out of. So if you work late on a Thursday it’s probably not a great night to try to squeeze in the gym too. Setting a reminder on your mobile might help too.
- Set a Goal and Reward Yourself
Start with something small and attainable like trying to walk an extra ten minutes a day three times a week or go to a Pilates class every Saturday. Try to do it for a month, even note your progress on the calendar or in your diary. Pick a little treat if you achieve your goal like a new top or a massage. Then build up gradually, increasing your target each month.
Remember little changes go a long way and even just getting off your bus a few stops earlier will help improve your fitness and lose weight.
There is loads of support available for cancer patients who want to get back to being more active:
Breast Cancer Care’s new app BECCA offers lots of support for moving forward, including tips for getting back into exercise
Pop over to the Macmillan website to order your Move More pack
And to find activities available near you at:
My favourite place, down at the canal with my dog Fizz, walking my worries away.