Breast Cancer and Exercise – Mobility and Flexibility

Week 3

The last few weeks we have discussed how exercise lowers your risk for developing Breast Cancer and how a healthy and fit lifestyle also positively impacts your treatment and recovery from Breast Cancer. Last week we reviewed cardio tips and today, we’ll focus on mobility and flexibility.

Part of the treatment for Breast Cancer often involves surgery which can cause these negative side effects:

  • Tightness in the chest, underarms, sides, and abdominals
  • Reduced range of motion in the shoulder
  • Postural deviations such as internal shoulder rotation and hunched shoulders and upper back

Once you have been given the green light from your physician to start an exercise program, you can typically begin a light post-rehab program with a focus on mobility and stretching a few weeks after surgery. Work closely with your physician and therapist to determine effective and safe protocol.

Range of Motion

Initially, you will want to focus on ROM at the shoulder. You can start with holding each stretch for 15 seconds x 3-4 sets.  Most women are very protective of the affected shoulder so ease into the stretches avoiding pain and gradually progress the stretch as the tissues allow. As your range of motion improves, you will be able to go deeper into the stretches. Here is a variety of stretches to start with:

Supine Single Arm Shoulder Stretch

Lie on your back with your arms at your side. Slowly lift the affected arm up and back over your head until you feel the stretch. Return to the starting position. You can assist with your unaffected arm or use a pillow beside your head to control the range of motion at the deepest stretch.

Butterfly Stretch

Lie on your back with your hands at your neck and elbows pointed towards the ceiling. Slowly let the elbows drop to the side. You can use a pillow under the affected arm to control range of motion.

Wall Climb

Stand in front of a wall and slowly walk your affected arm up the wall until you feel the stretch. You can use your unaffected arm to assist. Perform this wall climb from a variety of angles – front and side and in between

Single Arm Chest/Doorway Stretch

Stand within a doorway. Place your affected arm at shoulder height and move forward into the chest and shoulder stretch. You can perform this stretch with arm bent and straight.  Perform the stretch at various angles – shoulder height, above shoulder height and below shoulder height to involve all the tissue fibers.

Seated Side Stretch

Sit with your body tall and spine extended. Slowly reach the affected arm up and over to the other side while maintaining good posture.

Towel Stretch

Take a towel behind your back and hold each end in one hand. Slowly straighten and bend your arms back and forth as you stretch through your shoulders.

Overhead Tricep Stretch

Lift one arm up and bend at the elbow placing the hand on your upper back area as if you are trying to scratch your upper back. Take the other arm and apply light pressure downwards on the elbow to assist the stretch.

Next week, we will focus on muscular strength and endurance.

We are approaching Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we’re 3 weeks away from the Girlfriends Run, a local 5K, 10K and Half Marathon Run/Walk that supports local Breast Cancer organizations including Pink Lemonade Project and the Jaime Miller Cancer Compassion Fund. Be a part of 2000 women walking or running the Girlfriends Run 5K, 10K or Half Marathon on Sunday October 13th! If you would like to race for free, you can agree to raise or donate $500 to Pink Lemonade Project or the Jaime Miller Cancer Compassion Fund and help us raise funds to support local women and Breast Cancer survivors. Email me at if you would like more details.

Note: As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details. 

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan

Join us for Girlfriends Run for a Cure Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

October 13th – Vancouver, WA

The 13th Annual Girlfriends Run for a Cure offers a Half Marathon, 10K & 5K designed specifically for women to get together to do something good for themselves and to help support a very important women’s cause.




Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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