New Member Guidance

Welcome to team survivor northwest!

Research shows that, for most survivors, physical activity is deeply beneficial both during and after treatment1-4. We look forward to helping you be active and connected with other women cancer survivors. We welcome women with all types of cancer. Below are some tips for getting started. Also check out this resource on Being Active When You Have Cancer.

Getting Started

Check with your doctor

Before participating, talk to your doctor. It’s especially important that they evaluate your risk of bone fractures and any impact on your heart (cardiovascular impact) of your cancer or treatment. If you have lymphedema, we advise working with a therapist familiar with lymphedema (usually a physical, speech, or occupational therapist).

What to Expect?

Even if you have never exercised before, you can still generally start safely during treatment (and after).3,5 The goal during treatment is to maintain health to the extent possible.

Start Small and Build Up6,7

  • Some people feel best starting with walking and housework. Some will be able to start with a gentle class right away, particularly focusing on stretching, balance exercises, or chair exercises. Exercise should leave you feeling energized, not exhausted.
  • You are welcome to participate in our classes at your level and learn from the teachers and classmates. If you need to take longer breaks between exercises, that is fine. If you need to leave class early, that is fine. If you need to skip a week or more, that is fine. Try to be there at the beginning to warm up properly (and chat!).
  • Even 5-10 minutes makes a difference. Ideally you will work up to at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 days per week plus 2 days of strength training.8 Eventually, you may be ready to work up to 300 minutes per week as recommended for the general population.

Be Patient and Flexible9

  • Some days you will feel good, others you will not. Try to be more active on the days you do feel good, and allow yourself to rest as needed. There is no evidence that you should try to avoid activity even on treatment days, but you are your own best judge. Please talk with your doctor and with your instructor.
  • Care for your mind as well as your body. Be gentle with yourself as you experience exercise differently than before.
  • Be open to trying new kinds of exercise. If you loved high impact exercise or contact sports before cancer, we hope you can get back to them someday—but in the meantime, be aware of the increased risk of broken bones due to osteoporosis brought on by treatment.

Progress Slowly5

  • This supports physical safety, helps you avoid getting discouraged, and is the recipe for getting stronger!
  • Choose a variety of activities, both for physical and mental health. In all the variety, make sure you include plenty of balance exercises.
  • Pay attention to how your body responds and be willing to adjust how often or in what order you participate in exercises.
  • Consider using a calendar or journal to keep track of your activities and responses to them.
  • If you have lymphedema, do not increase weight or intensity if you experience puffiness or swelling.
  • Think of intensity in terms of how hard it feels. If you’ve worked out before, you might be used to monitoring your heart rate; know that during and after treatment, an activity may feel hard enough at a lower heart rate than before. The goal is to maintain/improve the function of your heart and lungs while avoiding exhaustion.

Exercises to Try

  • Balance exercises are crucial for coping with neuropathy (nerve damage in your feet/legs that affects your balance) and protecting against falls (which are more dangerous when cancer or treatment impacts bone density). Click here for some examples.
  • Exercising with lymphedema can be challenging. Click here for helpful tips.

Video Resources

Click here to watch TSNW co-founder Dr. Julie Gralow discuss the impact of exercise on cancer.
Click here to watch Dr. Mook-Lan Iglowitz, Palliative Care Physician at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, explain what you should know about exercise and activity during cancer treatment. Dr. Iglowitz offers suggestions for exercises, explains why physical activity is important and lists what you’ll want to pay attention to with your body.

  1. National Cancer Institute. Prescribing Exercise as Treatment: A Conversation with Dr. Kathryn Schmitz. 2019. 
  2. American Cancer Society. Exercise is medicine in oncology: Engaging clinicians to help patients move through cancer. Volume 69, Issue 6. November/December 2019. Pages 468-484. 
  3. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Exercise During Cancer Treatment: An Expert Q & A. 2017. 
  4. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Physical Activity Before, During, and After Chemotherapy for High-Risk Breast Cancer: Relationships with Survival. 2021.
  5. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Exercise During Cancer Treatment. 2019. 
  6. American Society of Clinical Oncology. An Exercise Program for You: 5 Tips for People With Cancer. 2018.
  7. Fred Hutch. 10 tips for breast cancer patients during treatment. 2010.
  8. American College of Sports Medicine. Moving Through Cancer recommendations.
  9. American College of Sports Medicine. Being Active When You Have Cancer.

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