The Healing Power of Movement
Most people are aware that some form of movement is beneficial. Whether exercising your muscles or your brain, moving every day can improve your health. It doesn’t need to be strenuous, sweat-inducing, high-impact exercise. Implementing movements like walking, yoga, or cycling can positively impact your overall health.
The Body, Mind, Spirit Connection
You may be familiar with the body, mind, spirit connection—a whole-person approach. The interconnection suggests how our thoughts, physical selves, and emotions affect one another. The way we look after our physical bodies will determine our emotional well-being and vice-versa.
The link between mind, body, and spirit isn’t just anecdotal; it’s a scientific fact. Research reveals three separate neural pathway networks, leading to the head, the gut, and the heart. Dubbed the three brains, they are all capable of controlling how we feel and react.
If our physical health is sound, but our mental or spiritual well-being is not, the effects will eventually impact our physical health. Similarly, poor physical health affects our satisfaction, contentment, and mental state. The delicate balancing act leads to optimal health.
Nourishes Your Mind, Body, and Spirit
Some consider movement “free medicine.” Even small doses practiced with consistency can extend longevity and prevent and treat disease. As far back as Hippocrates and Plato, physical activity was viewed as good for health. Over the years, evidence-based studies have confirmed that movement reduces mortality risks and protects us from chronic medical conditions like type 2 diabetes, obesity, dementia, and cancer.
One study found that breast cancer survivors benefited from low-impact aquatic exercise, which improved common side effects of breast cancer treatments. Although more research is needed, the study also suggests water exercise may help with lymphedema.
Research also shows that your thoughts, feelings, and expectations can positively impact your physical health. For example, if you're sick but have hope and a positive attitude and believe that you'll get better, your brain will likely produce chemicals that boost your body's healing power. While this doesn’t mean that simply being optimistic can cure your body, it can be helpful in some instances.
How Movement Helps Protect Against Breast Cancer
In addition to the overall health benefits of movement, engaging in exercise can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Although how movement lowers breast cancer risk is not fully understood, researchers believe that physical activity regulates hormones, including estrogen and insulin, which are known to fuel breast cancer growth.
Movement Helps the Newly Diagnosed, Patients, & Those Living with Metastatic Disease
Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can relieve stress, so it can be a significant help when a breast cancer diagnosis amplifies your stress levels. Incorporating movement into your life can also affect how well you treat, manage, or cope with your illness. Even if you’re not the athletic type or you’re out of shape, even a small amount of exercise can be a factor for stress management.
In addition to increasing your overall health and sense of well-being, exercise also has specific stress-reducing benefits.
· Increases Your Endorphins
Physical activity is an excellent way to foster the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.
· Reduces Negative Effects of Stress
Exercise can provide stress relief for your body by imitating the effects of stress, such as the flight or fight response, to help your body and its systems practice working together through those effects. It can also help protect your body from harmful effects of stress, including your cardiovascular, digestive, and immune systems.
· Improves Your Mood
Regular exercise can build your self-confidence, improve your mood, and help you relax. Movement can also reduce the symptoms of mild depression and anxiety. In addition, exercise can also improve your sleep.
The Benefits of Yoga
You don’t have to be a yogi to reap the benefits of a yoga class! Yoga is one example of the positive impact of movement for breast cancer patients and survivors. One study showed that breast cancer patients who practiced yoga reported less fatigue and higher vitality levels three months after treatment had ended.
Getting Physical Can Help Prevent Breast Cancer Recurrence
There’s also evidence that physical activity might prevent breast cancer recurrence. One report found that women who engaged in regular physical activity before their cancer diagnosis and after treatment were less likely to have their cancer come back (recur) or die than those who were inactive.
According to a review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, exercise significantly affects survival rates. In addition, the study found that exercise appeared to be far more likely than other lifestyle factors to reduce the risk for breast cancer recurrence and mortality. Another study by the National Cancer Institute concurs that regular exercise may improve survival rates.
Talk with your oncologist and care team before starting a fitness routine. Then, if you feel well enough to start exercising, and if your oncologist and care team have given their approval, you can work out during treatment.
It's important to start slow; try walking, yoga, or stretching before working your way up to a more active routine. You should also listen to your body to determine how much movement is right for you and increase your exercise slowly, especially if you are still in treatment.
Get Moving with Surviving Breast Cancer
Regular physical activity can help maintain or improve your health during and after treatment. It can:
· Help you avoid or reduce some side effects of cancer treatment, including fatigue, weight gain, osteoporosis, and lymphedema
· Prevent or minimize the loss of muscle tone and general fitness during and after treatment
· Reduce anxiety, stress, and depression to help your mental wellbeing
Surviving Breast Cancer offers free, weekly mind, body, and spirit exploration to help you heal. Join other members of our empowering community for yoga, pilates, meditation, and more. We’re here for you every step of the way!
Posted in: Emotional/Mental Health, Exercise, Mindfulness/Wellness