Exercise is a Strong Tool Against Breast Cancer

Rickye Lamm, centre, and friends at Full Circle Fitness where she works as a trainer.

Every October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month puts a spotlight on the disease that afflicts millions of women.

Rickye Lamm is among those who want to make sure exercise is always included in the conversation around prevention, treatment, recovery and support.

Rickye, 67, was diagnosed in 2001 and had operations on both sides a week apart, then underwent radiation treatment.

“Exercise really helped with my stress and state of mind,” says Rickye, who now works at my friend Rosa’s fitness studio in Tustin, California.  “I feel better now physically and mentally than I did in my 40s.”

Helping other women go through the disease, she’s even more of a believer: “If you’re physically fit, you recover from things better.”

Rickye is far from alone in making the connection between exercise and fighting cancer.

Leading Risk Factors

In Canada, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life, and 1 in 33 will die from it, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. On average, 74 Canadian women are diagnosed each day.

Globally, breast cancer is the No. 1 cancer among women, the World Health Organization says.

Men can get it, too, but in far lower numbers. Aside from gender, age is the top risk factor. Two-thirds of invasive breast cancers occur after age 55, says BreastCancer.org. Family history, race, genetics and other factors also increase the risk.

A healthy lifestyle should include exercise – which also helps limit other factors like obesity and blood pressure, before and after cancer. It can regulate hormone levels, strengthen the immune system and more, experts say.

“People who exercise are much more likely to survive cancer,” says Andrea Leonard, president and founder of the Cancer Exercise Training Institute (CETI). “That’s just a fact. There is no argument for not exercising.”

She stresses that each patient is different – each cancer, each treatment, each surgery, each recovery.

After treatment, exercise helps restore self-esteem and a sense of control, which cancer strips from patients, she says.

“Teaching them to regain control empowers them, increases esteem and confidence, and takes them from victim to survivor,” she says.

Trying to stay healthy

Sally O’Loughlin, 75, knows all of that first hand, after bouts with leukemia and then breast cancer.

Sally works out with weights twice a week with a trainer. She also practices yoga and Pilates, walks, skis and eats right.

Sally says it’s the lifestyle she has adopted to stay as strong as possible and do what she can to prevent a recurrence. Her health is excellent now, with no sign of cancer.

“Exercise matters incredibly” after you’ve had cancer, she says. “It helps to keep stress levels down and makes me feel like I’m doing something positive and healthy.

“For someone my age, I’m incredibly fit and strong and I like that. I still go in for checkups every six months, and my doctor calls me his ‘rock star,’” Sally says. “That’s a nice thing to have your doctor tell you.”

3 Ingredient 5-Min Frozen Yogurt

Here’s an insanely delicious recipe for Protein Frozen Yogurt that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters! It’s hard to believe that it contains such wholesome, protein-packed ingredients to help fuel your fitness results, considering how delicious it tastes.

You could certainly make this recipe using whatever vanilla protein powder you have on hand, though do know that the quality of the protein will have an effect on the flavour of your frozen yogurt. Use one that’s really tasty!

In order to get the most out of the supplements that you use, make sure to get the highest quality without fillers or artificial sweeteners.

What you need
Serves 4

  • 2 cups non-fat plain Greek yogurt (or dairy-free yogurt)
  • 10 ounces frozen strawberries
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder


  1. Divide the Greek yogurt into 2 ziplock bags and store in the freezer overnight, or for a minimum of an hour.
  2. Remove the yogurt from the freezer and, while it’s still in the bags, break into pieces. If it’s really solid then place in the fridge for 10 minutes and then break it into pieces.
  3. Place the frozen strawberries in a food processor and pulse to chop. Add the protein powder and frozen yogurt and blend until creamy.
  4. Serve immediately. Garnish with fresh strawberries and enjoy!

One serving equals: 138 calories, 0g fat, 95mg sodium, 12g carbohydrate, 2g fibre, 7g sugar and 23g protein.