3 Reasons Why You’re Not Exercising During Your Recovery


With an increase in research that supports the benefits of exercise to improve the quality of life in breast cancer survivors you know you should be exercising so, why aren’t you? What if we told you that exercise during your recovery doesn’t have to be hard in order to be helpful and you have the resources you need right at your fingertips! Here are three reasons why you’re not exercising and how you can get out of a funk in order to have more energy, feel connected in a community, and create balance in your routine. No matter where you are in your recovery, you can say buh-bye to these barriers and enjoy exercise safely, and effectively!

1. You don’t feel well

Side effects of cancer treatment make your body feel lousy. From fatigue, nausea, pain, swelling (edema), constipation or all of the above! With these symptoms it is understandable that your body will not feel like it can tolerate exercise. If you have undergone surgery, you may also be fearful about undoing the progress of your recovery. Studies have observed a “decrease in physical activity in many cancer patients after diagnosis, and this fact concludes to a reduced physical capacity.”

If you are unsure of where to start and you don’t want to go to a gym, seek professionals who are willing to work with you virtually. This approach to “tailored exercise programs can counteract a decrease in physical capacity successfully. Further they reduce side effects such as fatigue, incontinence and lymphedema.”

The sooner you start an exercise program, the greater the potential benefit. Even on a low energy day you can try some restorative movement or just focus on mindful breathing. Physical activity can reduce the risk of breast cancer, reduce the rate of recurrence, and increase the survival rate of patients with breast cancer.”

2. You don’t have time

When you have good intentions of getting exercise into your day and your body is cooperating, we know what you are thinking; “When do I have time?” Between your workday, driving the kiddos to school plus their activities, and fitting in your own health appointments while trying to maintain some sense of a normal social life (even if it is over zoom- *cheers*). Girl, you are busy!

Today, the options to find relatable and effective exercise resources online are abundant. You no longer have to rely on your city limits, programming that is outdated or that doesn’t work with your schedule. Technology in our present time shows promise to provide support during breast cancer recovery.

This is reassuring to know that if you live in a rural area or you are unable to attend an in person group class you can feel confident that you can achieve results using online resources. You can also trust that you are making a safe choice for your recovery and it is easier now more than ever to find the time to exercise anytime and from anywhere.

3. You don’t feel supported

It is important for your mental health and wellbeing to maintain an optimal system for your recovery; especially now during the pandemic. A cancer diagnosis shakes the existing social support network and requires new arrangements. It was found that cancer patients believed that the emotional support given by the people they felt close to was really significant. But, what if you are missing out on the unique social support network for breast cancer because you live in a rural environment that is missing resources for women with breast cancer? Or, you are feeling isolated due to COVID-19 restrictions? You may feel unmotivated to exercise or you may feel overwhelmed that you do not know how to safely begin an exercise program.

Having a solid support system – even online can create a network of shared experiences, relatable circumstances, and a common goal. Finding the support you need is no longer limited to the resources your city can provide, and making connections and friendships even in these unique times can still happen! Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal. Exercise changes your physiological and psychological state in a positive way. Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.

Now that you understand some of the barriers to exercise after a breast cancer diagnosis and how each one can be managed by connecting online; are you ready to bring exercise safely and effectively into your recovery routine? Most importantly, trust your doctor when she gives you the go ahead to start exercising- even gently. Then, listen to your body and have patience with your progress. We are (virtually) cheering you on your recovery journey every step of the way!

For more exercise resources, click here.


Aileen Szkwarek is a registered physiotherapist with 35 years of experience and co-founder of Stay Strong Online. Living in Ottawa, she is originally from Northwestern Ontario, and understands first-hand that women living in remote areas don’t always have access to the same resources as those in urban areas. Aileen is one of a select few physiotherapists in Canada working exclusively in Pilates-based therapeutic exercise. She has a personal connection with Breast Cancer, as her mom is a Breast Cancer survivor.


Krista Dicks is a registered massage therapist, certified lymphedema therapist, Stott Pilates instructor as well as a podcast host and published author who has a passion for ongoing evidence-based learning. She is co-founder of Stay Strong Online and as a millennial she understands the benefits of going online for easy access to health professionals. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario and she brings a unique combination of skills with 14 years of experience working with clients in the healthcare profession and fitness industry.

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