Sunday, 18 March 2018

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Managing Physical Activity

This week our discussion explored the different ways we exercise and manage physical activity while managing treatment and its side-effects.

Naz explained that research has repeatedly shown that exercising brings huge benefits - it enhances our mood and can make us feel better about ourselves; it also seems to have cognitive, physical, and longer term psychological benefits (e.g. for managing acute depression and anxiety). Naz told us that more recently, exercise has be shown to increase neuro-plasticity - the way our brain neural connections can grow and increase processing efficiency - what Naz called, 'a healthier brain'.

When we think of 'exercise' a whole range of activities come to mind, yoga, Nordic walking, Zumba, Fitbit, to name but a few. Our discussion, which included women with primary and secondary breast cancer, highlighted that the way we interpreted 'physical fitness' and 'physical' activity varied considerably, some of us are serious runners, swimmers and cyclists for instance, whereas others, while less 'athletic', were no less active, perhaps riding, or gardening, for instance. We realised that some exercises appeal to us more than others, depending on interest, energy levels and past history of physical activity. But, a number of us shared that either we did not enjoy physical pursuits, or, we felt that our struggles with fatigue, pain or other side-effects were just too huge a barrier to overcome.

So what can we do to help ourselves to increase our activity levels and fitness?

Firstly, we need to make the decision; our mindset is everything. Plan and stay focused.

Doing something small (however small), everyday, is absolutely better than doing nothing. Whatever our activity levels, its intensity and duration can be changed to suit us.

Walking is a great weight bearing exercise and doing a ten minute walk a few times a week is a good start. Even better, make it a brisk walk. Likewise, swinging the arms or including some inclines will add in a little more challenge.

Psychologically, it's important not to fall into the following traps:

1. Beating ourselves up and feeling stressed if we don't attain the ‘targets’ we set ourselves.

2. Comparing ourselves unfavourably with our peers and what others achieve.

3. Comparing what we can do now with what we used to be able to do and feeling frustrated.

4. Giving ourselves a hard time if we 'crash' (as a result of illness, fatigue, low mood, stress) and when we feel like we have to start again.

5. We should try not to undermine our own abilities and accept that what works for us may not work for another - we are all different.

6. If we can, we should try to set ourselves small, challenging increments in our exercise (whatever that is) and push the boundaries of our comfort zone. This will aid us in building our strength and stamina.

Although there is a lot of advice for the general population about how to improve fitness and activity levels, it's not targeted enough for those of us struggling with the physical and psychological effects of breast cancer and its treatment. We need help - tailored advice and support adapted to suit our specific needs.

Although Naz advises caution on the findings, here's an interesting link to the NHS on exercise:…/exercise-most-proven-method-to-preven…/

If you are a woman living in the UK with a breast cancer diagnosis and you would like to join our private group, please send us a private message via our facebook page

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