Exercise and breast cancer

Three women exercising together lifting weights

We know that being physically active is an essential component to living well—especially for people diagnosed with breast cancer. Being active through exercise, structured physical activity for the purpose of increasing your health and fitness, can improve your overall survival and lower your risk of other chronic diseases.

Research has also shown that exercise not only has physical and mental health benefits but helps with treatment-related side effects, such as fatigue, sleep disruptions, chemobrain, depression, and anxiety. Exercise, especially strengthening movements, may help you achieve or maintain a healthy body composition: the balance of muscle and fat in your body.


Getting started

Even with all the benefits, if you are going through or recovering from treatment, preparing for surgeries or regaining mobility after surgery, or living with metastatic disease, you may find it challenging to start or restart an exercise routine.

To help you get moving and doing more of the things you want, Living Beyond Breast Cancer developed BeACTive: Empowering workouts for people with breast cancera three-week exercise series customized to fit your needs and meet evidence-based recommendations for people diagnosed with breast cancer.


Watch the video above for a brief introduction to the series. You can explore the full series through the YouTube playlist, or click on a video title below to start where you wish.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3


Recommendations for people in active treatment

For people undergoing active treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy for early-stage breast cancer, the latest American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) guidelines recommend regular aerobic and resistance exercises to reduce side effects. Certified cancer exercise trainer Sami Mansfield, our BeACTive video series host, is a co-author of the guidelines.

What is aerobic exercise?

Aerobic exercise is repetitive and uses large groups of muscles, increasing your heart rate and breathing. Examples include:
• Walking
• Running
• Exercising with cardio equipment such as a treadmill, stair climber, rowing machine, or elliptical
• Swimming
• Cycling

What is resistance exercise?

Resistance exercise, also called strength training, is working out in a way that creates resistance that can help strengthen muscles. Examples include:
• Planks
• Lunges
• Squats
• Shoulder press

Before any strength training program, talk with your healthcare team about whether any exercises should be modified to reduce the risk of lymphedema if you’ve had lymph nodes removed.


Proven benefits

ASCO guidelines authors found that a combination of regular aerobic and resistance exercise has many benefits for people in active treatment for early-stage breast cancer, including:

• Reduced fatigue
• Increased energy during physical activity
• Improved physical function
• Improved quality of life
• Reduced depression and anxiety
• Improved sleep
• Improved thinking, memory, and focus
• Improved upper- or lower-body strength

The authors did not look at exercise in people taking endocrine therapies such as aromatase inhibitors (AIs) and tamoxifen, because there is already evidence that exercise can reduce fatigue and joint pain—common side effects of these treatments.

There is also evidence that supervised exercise programs are safe for people living with bone metastasis. If you’ve been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer to the bones or any other area of the body, there are many safe ways you can exercise. Learn more in Exercise and metastatic breast cancer.


The BeACTive video series was supported in part by the Grant or Cooperative Agreement Number 1 NU58DP006672, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services. 

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Reviewed and updated: November 1, 2023

Reviewed by: Sami Mansfield


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