Breast Cancer Self-Care and Recovery: Exercise Program

Aerobic exercise is continuous movement, using your legs, arms or both at a moderate to high level of intensity for at least 20 minutes.

The following are some of the benefits of aerobic exercise:

  • Increases energy
  • Reduces risk of lymphedema
  • Promotes sleep
  • Improves cardiovascular fitness
  • Improves mood
  • Strengthens bones
  • Reduces hot flashes
  • Maintains ideal weight
  • Keeps your gastrointestinal (GI) tract regular

Exercise Recommendations

It is recommended that you get 20 minutes of aerobic exercise at least three times a week.

The following are some good examples of aerobic exercise:

  • Walking
  • Jogging or running
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Using a treadmill and other aerobic equipment

Aerobic Exercise vs. Activities

Stop-and-go or low intensity movements, such as golfing, are considered activities. Although activities are beneficial, they do not provide the total body benefit of exercise and do not replace aerobic exercise.

The following are some examples of activities:

  • Walking the dog
  • Golfing
  • Gardening
  • Housework
  • Yard work
  • Running around at work, at home or after your children

Starting a Walking Program

Walking is a safe, inexpensive and great aerobic workout. Walking also is a gentle way to begin an exercise program. When you walk, your arms move gently. Gentle arm movements are best. Keep the following in mind:

  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Be aware of your posture and breathing
  • Begin your walk well hydrated and drink fluids during and after
  • Warm-up by beginning your walk at a somewhat slower pace
  • Cool down by ending your walk at a somewhat slower pace
  • Start at a level that is safe and realistic for you, and gradually build up your duration and intensity

Breast Cancer Self-Care and Recovery:

Excerpt from the Personal Support and Lifestyle Intervention Program of UCSF/CPMC program materials; a program of the UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center.


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.