Breast Cancer and Exercise – Muscle Strength and Endurance

Week Five

Although you are never the same after Breast Cancer, we have many clients who have gone on to living incredibly healthy, fit, rich and adventurous lives post Breast Cancer – and some are actually in even better shape now because they’ve taken a very active role in their overall health and well being.

Over the last four weeks we have discussed how exercise can play a role in both prevention and treatment of Breast Cancer. Every woman is different so it’s important to discuss your fitness plan with your doctor.

Once given the approval post-surgery….

  1. You can typically start with light cardio like walking
  2. The next step will generally be range of motion and mobility exercises
  3. The next stage is typically strength training focusing on the un-affected areas
  4. Then once given the approval, muscle and strength training of the affected areas starting with light resistance and then gradually building from there.

Today we focus on muscle-conditioning for the affected areas.

*Review past columns for the details of the stages prior to today’s focus.*

Post-surgery, as a woman’s range of motion improves and pain subsides, it is very important that she start a strength training program to minimize muscle atrophy, improve strength, enhance bone density and prevent posture deviations and muscle imbalances.

She can start with little or no resistance and then slowly add resistance as her body manages the load.
  • Start with 1 set of 8-12 reps of a variety of exercises for the lower body, upper body and core.
  • She can increase to 2-3 sets or increase the number of exercises she performs.
  • It’s a good idea to rotate between Lower & Upper Body exercises to allow for recovery in between sets and to help prevent lymphedema.

Since certain muscles and joints will be more affected from Breast Cancer surgery and treatment, exercises to strengthen the Lower and Middle Trapezius, Rotator Cuff, Rhomboids, Lats, Chest, Shoulders, and Core will be very important for the Breast Cancer Survivor.

A list of good specific Post-Breast Cancer Strength Training Exercises include:

  • Lower/Mid Trap Floor Presses
  • Lower/Mid Trap Wall Presses
  • Prone Lower/Mid Trap Arm Lifts
  • Shoulder Tubing Exercises
    • Variety of angles
  • Back Rows
  • Back Flies
  • External Rotation – Side Lying/Standing
  • Chest Press/Flies
  • Pullovers
  • Standing Torso rotation
  • Oblique Crunch
  • Prone/Quad Opposite Arm/Leg

If you are unfamiliar with any of these exercises, be sure to consult with a therapist who specializes in Post Breast Cancer Rehab to ensure you are performing the movements correctly and safely.

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 THIS SUNDAY!!

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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