Nutrition and Healing
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  • Get moving to boost your energy — and your brain

    Ladies, when you’ve got breast cancer — or if you’ve already survived it — the thought of exercising probably sounds about as appealing as getting a root canal.

    Fighting the cancer… enduring the chemo… and suffering the insomnia that so often accompanies your treatments has got you more than wiped out.

    To add insult to injury, you might also feel as though your brain isn’t firing on all cylinders, a complaint known as “chemo brain” that’s common among those getting chemotherapy.

    But even though you’re feeling dazed and dog-tired, it turns out that the best thing you can do to feel better is probably the last thing you feel like doing: EXERCISE.

    Because according to a new study, doing some moderate-to-vigorous physical activity — even just taking a brisk walk — can ease your fatigue and, in turn, perk up your brain.

    The study out of the University of Illinois tracked the physical activity of nearly 300 breast cancer patients and survivors for one week and measured their performance on a bundle of cognitive tests.

    By the end of the study, those who had the highest levels of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity reported the LEAST fatigue!

    And there was a domino effect, too: Less fatigue translated into BETTER performance on cognitive tasks, including those that involved memory and “executive function,” which is a set of mental skills that helps you get things done.

    Even 10 minutes a day of brisk walking was enough to improve both fatigue AND “chemo brain”!

    What’s more, previous studies have shown that regular exercise may even SAVE your life — because those who were active on a regular basis slashed their risk of dying from breast cancer by 40 percent.

    So, if you’re battling breast cancer, don’t assume that exercising will tire you out more or worsen your “brain drain.”

    Instead, pull yourself up off the couch for a true “pick-me-up”!

    You don’t have to train for a triathlon — start easy by just taking a brisk walk outside. As a bonus, your body will convert those UV rays you soak up under the sun into vitamin D (a.k.a. the “sunshine vitamin”) — shown in other studies to improve your chances of surviving breast cancer.

    You can even try a yoga class. Studies show that twisting your body into funny-named yoga poses also gives your brain a boost.

    And if insomnia is an issue, you might want to check out a tai chi class. The graceful exercise has been shown to ease insomnia in breast cancer survivors and boost cognitive function, too.

    Aim for the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week for the most benefits.

    And if you lose a few pounds in the process, all the better — because keeping your weight in check itself lowers the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

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