Physical Activity, Wellness & Nutrition
Taking Care Of Yourself During Treatment And Beyond
It’s important for you to take good care of yourself before, during, and after cancer treatment. If you’re a caretaker, this is equally important as the demands of care taking can take a toll on your physical and mental health.
Taking care of yourself includes:
- Eating well
- Staying as active as you can
- Finding an exercise routine that works for you
- Understanding your thoughts, emotions, and reactions
- Taking time for yourself
- Prioritizing your mental health
- Exploring meditation & mindfulness
It is okay to continue exercise during breast cancer treatment as long as your doctor okays your physical activity. Many women find that they feel better when they stay active. Walking, yoga, swimming, and other activities can keep you strong and increase your energy. Exercise may reduce nausea and pain and make treatment easier to handle. It also can help relieve stress. Whatever physical activity you choose, be sure to talk to your doctor before you start.
Also, if your activity causes you pain or other problems, be sure to let your doctor or nurse know.
Yoga is a system of physical postures and breathing techniques to promote physical and emotional well-being. Research has shown that yoga can reduce the side effects of cancer and its treatments and reduce the risk of recurrence . It is recommended to get between 150-320 minutes of exercise per week to speed recovery or defend against cancer occurrence and recurrence .
Not all yoga is the same and for cancer survivors the needs are different. Oncology based programs, like those created by our partner, yoga4cancer, are required to provide safe and effective support.
yoga4cancer focuses on evidence informed yoga and has served more than 100,000 cancer survivors in communities worldwide. Their approach matches breath and movement to stimulate the immune system, improve flexibility & strength, reduce anxiety, and boost overall well-being.
How Yoga for Cancer Patients is Different
Specialized Training is Required
A specialized yoga teacher training about cancer helps teachers identify and work with the lifelong side effects triggered by cancer and its treatments. Yoga teachers need the essential facts about both cancer and yoga because understanding, not just compassion, is essential. Compassion might, for example, lead a teacher to provide only gentle or restorative poses for a cancer survivor. But yoga is not just a relaxation technique; movement is necessary to stimulate the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems that assist in recovery and in creating long-term stability.
Recent research suggests that the physical exercise provided by yoga improves immune function , reduces inflammation , and enhances the efficacy of chemotherapy and radiation . Still, there are limits, especially right after surgery, or if a survivor is physically limited. Only training and supervised experience can inform a yoga teacher about safe and effective methods of adapting yoga for cancer survivors.
Safety Comes First
Healing begins with feeling safe. Safety for a cancer survivor, whether physical or psychological, can be different than for a typical student. The effects of some cancer treatments go beyond hair loss and fatigue to create serious long-term fragilities requiring special attention.
Emotional safety is important as well. Survivors bring their fears to class, such as the fear of developing lymphedema (fluid retention and swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system), which may be as strong as the fear of cancer. Students need to hear that the teacher understands their fears and will know how to provide modifications of poses or sequences they teach. A student touched by cancer might be struggling to understand the new limitations of her body and will be looking for reassurance and informed advice.
Understanding Risk Factors
Like cancer, yoga is not “one size fits all.” Each survivor’s specific cancer, treatments, side effects, and body are different, and yoga teachers must adapt to their needs. The difference in teaching yoga to cancer survivors is that the risks are higher and a teacher should know what they are to best care for their students.
A short list of risk factors includes:
- Fragile bones that increase the risk of fracture
- Abdominal obstructions and sensitivities
- Weak or missing muscles
- Peripheral neuropathy affecting balance
- A compromised immune system, increasing the risk of infection
When offering a class for cancer survivors, a teacher is saying, “I am responsible. I know what yoga is best for you and I will protect you from possible discomfort and injury, and calm your doubts or fears with knowledge and facts.” Survivors expect teachers to understand three general topics:
- The effects of cancer treatments on the body
- The poses that have the most benefits
- The poses that can be harmful
Online Yoga Classes
yoga4cancer offers a range of classes focusing on fatigue, immune support, range of motion, bone building, balance, reducing anxiety, improving sleep and more.
Each session aims to:
- Build strength and flexibility in safe ways
- Stimulate your immune system and build bone density
- Detox the body and cultivate a sense of well-being
- Create hope and community
- Empower cancer patients and survivors to feel in control of their lives
Browse and find a class that’s right for you by clicking here
Research White Paper
The white paper, Yoga Interventions for Cancer Patients and Survivors, is a robust review of existing research on the impact of yoga on cancer survivors and patients and the short- and long-term side effects cancer survivors face.
Download your copy by clicking here
Yoga HOPE Kits
Filled with items that can help soothe some of the side effects of treatment, plus a few yoga essentials.Coming Soon!
Meditation is a way to untangle our thoughts and the emotions associated with them. When we’re stressed or distracted, we’re focused on our reaction to something—an event, or a frustration, for example. Meditation teaches us to separate ourselves from our reaction and simply observe it, without attaching emotion. This awareness allows us to remain in the present moment, understand our thought patterns, and learn more about our emotions and ourselves.
Stress is a leading trigger of many health conditions, and current research shows that meditation can help with stress management, anxiety, sleep disorders, and chronic pain . Meditation has been shown to increase the brain’s capacity for attention span, focus, and creativity. Recent studies have also shown that meditation can increase our compassion toward others .
How to Begin Meditation
Our partner, Meditation Studio, has shared tips on how to begin meditation as well as free resources linked below.
All you need to start your meditation practice is comfort and dedication. Find a comfortable place to sit, and be willing to commit to your practice at the same time each day. Do your best to stay committed and remember, if you skip a day, simply start again.
Begin slowly with just a few minutes a day, and increase the length of your practice over time. We all have busy schedules, but making time on the frontend will help you manage your time more effectively in the long run. Practicing first thing in the morning can be helpful as it’s a nice way to start the day—fresh and clear, carrying your intention and your awareness through the rest of the day.
For beginners, it’s important not to sit too long. Meditations can range from two-, five-, ten-, and 15-minutes, all of which are suitable for beginners who want to start a daily practice. Committing to shorter daily meditations is better than doing a longer meditation once a week.
Think about meditation like exercise: start slowly and build up your endurance. Ten minutes a day is a great starting point, and with time, you might like to extend your meditation to 25 minutes or longer.
A common misconception about meditation is that you have to “stop thinking.” Because of the way our brains work, we are hard-wired to think—and the more we try to stop our thoughts, the more they pop up.
When your mind feels flooded, have patience with yourself, bring your attention back to your breath, and allow yourself to simply observe your train of thought. Over time—and with practice—your sense of ease and calm will increase.
Meditation Studio is offering NBCF supporters free access to the Cancer Comfort Meditation Series.
This series includes:
- Managing Chronic Pain
- Breath as Ally
- Letting Others In
- Cultivating Self Compassion
- Facing Denial and Disappointment
- Facing Death and Grief
- Building Strength and Resilience
Click below to listen to the free Cancer Comfort Meditation Series.
Download Meditation Studio from the Apple App Store
Finding Hope That Heals
Our latest eBook guides patients and caregivers to strengthen hopes that help and let go of those that may harm.
Tell us where we can send your free copy of the eBook, Finding Hope That Heals.
Eating well may actually help you feel better and have more energy. It’s important to do your best to eat the right amount of calories to maintain a good weight. Adequate protein can help to keep up your strength, too.
Sometimes, especially during or soon after treatment, you may not feel like eating. Some treatments can leave you feeling tired and uncomfortable. Or you may find that some foods don’t taste as good as they used to.
In addition, the side effects of treatment (such as poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, or mouth blisters) can make it hard to eat well. On the other hand, some women treated for breast cancer may have a problem with weight gain.
Your doctor, a registered dietitian, or another healthcare provider can suggest ways to help you meet your nutrition needs and remain as close to a healthy weight as you can.
Nutrition Care for Breast Cancer Patients eBook
Nutrition is an important, but sometimes overlooked, part of breast cancer treatment. Our new eBook Nutrition Care for Breast Cancer Patients will teach those in treatment and their caregivers about creating nutritious meals that are easy to prepare, safe to eat, and may help manage side effects from treatment.
Tell us where we can send your free eBook:
Weekly Healthy Living Tips
Make healthy living a priority in your daily life with the help of our Weekly Health Tips. Each week we’ll send you a new tip to your email inbox to help you live a more balanced lifestyle.
Tell us where we can send your weekly tips:
 Yoga Interventions for Cancer Patients and Survivors White Paper
 American Cancer Society, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
 Regular Yoga Practice Improves Antioxidant Status, Immune Function, and Stress Hormone Releases in Young Healthy People: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Pilot Study
 Yoga’s Impact on Inflammation, Mood, and Fatigue in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial
 Yoga Helps Maintain Quality of Life, May Lessen Side Effects in Men Undergoing Prostate Cancer Treatment
 Brief, Daily Meditation Enhances Attention, Memory, Mood, and Emotional Regulation in Non-Experienced Meditators
 Concentrative Meditation Influences Creativity by Increasing Cognitive Flexibility