Movement vs. Exercise – An Important Distinction (4 of 4)

I’ve had a blast sharing my story with all of you so far! I feel lighter, happier, and super inspired – I hope this energy is rubbing off on you too! In previous blogs, I talked about the importance of addressing the mental/emotional piece of cancer recovery as well as the physical piece through sound nutrition. If you haven’t read those yet I encourage you to go check them out! There is another aspect to recovery that proved to be really helpful to me and so many of my clients and that is… moving your body! Yep, that hot bod of yours needs to move girl! Helping you find the right type of movement and cultivating a daily movement practice is something I’m deeply passionate about. Daily movement has so many profound health benefits that extend far beyond breast cancer, but since we’re all breasties here, I’ll focus on how moving our bodies daily can help reduce stress and inflammation during treatment and recovery.

Back in blog 2 when I talked about body image, I shared how pre-cancer I used to exercise excessively. I had my rigorous 6 day/week routine and I would mentally beat myself up if I was too tired and missed a day. Keep in mind though, that at that point in my life I was living in a lot of emotional pain and had a very distorted relationship with my body. Getting breast cancer at 26 was a huge wakeup call in all areas of my life and the message rang loud and clear – SLOW DOWN!

I still exercised during my treatment, but instead of a rigorous 6 day/week regimen, I would go for slow walks, lift very light weights, or go for a gentle ride on a stationary bike. And on days that I was too tired, I didn’t beat myself up and make myself wrong for this. Instead, I rested and maybe ran an errand and considered that my daily movement for the day.

Slowing down this much felt AMAZING. By slowing down, I had MORE energy and I became very intrigued by yoga. I decided to try a class and I was hooked!  Four years later… still hooked! I realized how much I needed to slow down and when I tuned in and honoured that need, so much shifted for me. Being on my yoga mat, I reconnected to myself and to my body. I realized that for as long as I could remember, I was viewing myself (Lauren the person) and my body as two separate entities. Underneath any cancer diagnosis – but especially breast cancer at a young age – there is a disconnect between our mind, our body, and our highest self. The mind has subconsciously rejected a part of us and this creates a massive disconnect in the mind-body connection. Yoga helped me reconnect my mind and body as one beautiful being. In doing, so it helped me heal in a profound way – it enabled me to show up as my best self in the world. Now, I live my life in gratitude and service and I want nothing more than other survivors to experience this reconnection to themselves. It’s like returning home.

So, clearly I’m on team yoga! LOL. And I really do encourage everyone to try a class if you haven’t before. Honestly though, any type of movement that brings you joy is the best type of movement for you. The most important thing is to honour where you’re at and don’t over extend yourself.

I strongly encourage daily movement as part of my practice with my clients because moving our bodies has profound health benefits that can help you recover during treatment and provide more vitality and longevity in life after breast cancer. There are several reasons for this but the main one is that when we move, we release hormones that send signals throughout our bodies that bring down inflammation. Cancer is an inflammatory disease, so anything we can do that’s anti-inflammatory is encouraged. Second, its been proven time and time again that movement is a way to bring down stress levels. When we move, we change both our physical and mental states. This releases endorphins and other hormones that bring down inflammation and stress markers in our bodies. Another huge benefit to movement for cancer prevention is that moving helps to balance blood sugar. You may not know this, but most cancers are fuelled by sugar – so much so that breast cancer cells can have 10 times more insulin receptors on them than normal, healthy breast cells. As such, balancing blood sugar and preventing large spikes and crashes is a major part of a breast cancer recovery plan. When we move, hormones that help keep blood sugar stable are released and this helps to prevent those harmful spikes and crashes. Blood sugar is also largely controlled by what/how/when we eat – nutrition plays a huge role here too!

Please note that I refer to this as developing a daily movement practice, not an exercise practice. This is an important distinction. There are some days where I am so exhausted, there’s no way I’m going to make it through the day and go to a yoga class. On days like that, I’ll run a couple errands and park my car as far from the entrance as I can and those extra steps really do add up. I want to illustrate that on days where the fatigue is intense and overwhelming, running errands is pushing yourself to your max for that day. It doesn’t mean you didn’t do a hard workout – you did the hardest thing you could at that particular time. Of course at the gym or yoga you may have moved a little more, but doing that type of movement would have overextended you, and trust me, you don’t want to do that because it will just make the fatigue worse. By saying no to the gym/yoga or whatever it is, you honoured where you were at. And friends, let me tell you – honouring where you’re at is a very powerful act of self love. The days that are full of fatigue, stress, and overwhelm… they will always be there because, well, life happens. I’ll be honest – last week I was SO tired. I had clients back to back all morning, meetings in the afternoon, and I felt overwhelmed and didn’t want to go to yoga. So instead I went to Costco, parked at the back and one hour and 4,000 steps later, I finished an errand I had been putting off (I dread going to Costco. There’s too many people and I spend too much money! LOL). I moved my body to my body’s max for that day, anymore than going to Costco would have been overdoing it. When you shift your thinking from “exercise” to “movement”, it makes the idea of developing a daily practice much more manageable and attainable.

I hope that learning some of the health benefits to moving your body daily inspires you to move a little bit more! For me, the movement activities that bring me joy are yoga and walking but I recently started taking dance classes – I’m horrible at this but it’s so much fun! I encourage you to try a new activity or go for a short walk. Just remember that there’s no wrong way to move and every step counts.

I’d love to connect with you outside of this blog! If you have questions, comments, or want to hear more from me, connect with me on Instagram @Nutritious_Delicious_life, on facebook Nutritious Delicious Life, or through my website www.nutritiousdeliciouslife.com. Thank you for reading and I hope you walk away feeling inspired and empowered.

Until next time!

Written by: Lauren, Tigerlily ANGEL Advocate