What Exercises Can I do If I Have Breast Cancer?


1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, with approximately 18,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed in 2018. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age, especially those over 60.

Exercise plays an important role as medicine for those living with or have survived breast cancer, and has become increasingly recommended by oncologists and other allied health professionals. 

COSA (Clinical Oncology Society of Australia) recommend individuals to return to physical activity as soon as possible following diagnosis. 

Individuals with cancer should maintain participation in:

  • Aerobic exercise 
  • Resistance exercises (weight training) 
  • Mobility exercise 

Why Aerobic Exercise?

  1. Manage your weight: Eostrogen levels are correlated to your body’s fat cells and increases your risk of cancer recurrence. Aerobic exercise will help to maintain or reduce your fat mass, and therefore keep eostrogen storage at optimal levels for bone health.
  2. Maintain fitness for activities of daily living and manage fatigue.

EXAMPLES: Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming.

DO: 150 minutes of moderate intensity (still able to maintain a conversation) or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity (able to say one-worded answers at a time).

Why Mobility Exercise?

  1. Maintain flexibility and range of motion for daily tasks and activities
  2. Prepare mobility for potential surgery and maintaining flexibility post-surgery

EXAMPLES: stretching muscles of your chest, trunk and arms

DO: every day

Why weight training?

  1. Increase your muscular strength for activities of daily living.
  2. Maintain your bone density: Eostrogen is required for cancer to progress and hormone treatments work by starving the cancer of eostrogen. Too much eostrogen increases your risk of cancer recurrence and progression, however too little will increase your risk of having osteoporosis.
  3. Weight training creates muscle overload to stimulate new muscle to grow and increase bone strength. 

EXAMPLES: Exercises loading major muscle groups such as bodyweight squats and bicep curls. You can do it with small weights, resistance bands, exercise machines, or the weight of your own body. Bounding and jumping activities helps to load your bones, but is only recommended if you aren’t already living with osteoporosis.

DO: 2-3 times a week on non-consecutive days to allow for optimal muscle recovery


The above recommendations are a guideline only so allow an exercise professional such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) to tailor a specific exercise program that suits you. AEP’s are university-qualified allied health professionals and understand the exercise prescription required to cope with the side effects of cancer and your cancer treatment. 

Always listen to your body, and remember that recovery is just as important as exercising!

Interested to learn more? 


Get in touch with us at Exercise For Life.
(08) 9371 8563

Pictured: Margaret Beaven, a valued Exercise For Life member, exercise advocator and breast cancer survivor says, “I enjoy the variety of exercises that challenge me. Exercise has helped me maintain my weight and manage the lymphedema in my arms.”

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