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Shira Litwack Medical fitness, Corporate wellness, Radio talk show host

Breast Cancer Recovery with Pole Walking

Breast Cancer Recovery with More Cancer Exercise

Breast cancer recovery demands a solid, safe cancer exercise program. Yes, exercise and physical activity are vital to any healthy lifestyle, disease prevention or recovery program. Please may I introduce you to another great exercise partner – pole walking.

I have had the pleasure of a new walking buddy – a set of 4life poles from Urban Poling. I would like to share with you some of the wonderful health benefits, especially as part of a  breast cancer recovery program. Even better…Urban Poling donates 2% of all proceeds to breast cancer research…..And….Urban Poling donated poles and training to cancer wellness centres in Ontario, BC, AB and Dalhousie university in NS.

Lymphedema is a possibility in breast cancer recovery as with any cancer treatment involving lymph node removal or radiation. Survivors should always consult their health care professional for:

a) Permission to resume exercise, and be aware of any contraindications

b) Recommendations for compression garments and proper fitting

c) Cancer exercise is different. Contraindications must be avoided. Maximize the benefits. Many stereotypes over exercise can be dangerous. Work with someone who is specialized in cancer exercise.

Yes, caution and vigilance are a necessity, but a thorough, carefully planned fitness program is a crucial part of disease recovery, and a healthy lifestyle for all.

Breast Cancer Recovery with Best in Health Radio
Live Laugh Love ……Liberate with Best In Health Radio Health Processes

The obvious that stands out about pole walking for breast cancer recovery is helping people (men and women) with range of motion challenges often faced after treatment. However, there are many other aspects of pole fitness I would like to point out. Far too often in recovery from breast cancer, or any surgery, the immediate surgical area is focused on, the truth is the entire body, is the immediate surgical area.

Think of our body as an ecosystem. Every part of the ecosystem has a crucial function, and when one part is struggling, the entire ecosystem is compromised. When trained properly in form and cardio respiratory management, pole fitness can be a valuable partner in balancing and optimizing the ecosystem by:

  • a wide range of cardio respiratory training options
  • Range of motion and flexibility training
  • metabolic support
  • Development of the Power pump muscles
  • Body fat management and lean muscle mass development
  • affordable and attainable
  • Balance, core strength & postural training
  • hormonal ….mood balance
  • minimizing side effects of treatment – during treatment and beyond
  • Social aspects
  • Fun = adherence

All of these are performance partners in an  effective exercise program, but are also beneficial to lymphedema prevention. Let’s remember lymphedema can happen any time after treatment…even 20 years later.  Unfortunately as a person ages, fitness levels are much harder to maintain. Changes in body fat percentages, lean to fat ratios, can be dangerously conducive to lymphedema.

Cardio respiratory training is vital – and it is critical to include a broad range of training – target heart rate zones are far too often over looked. Health care professionals might recommend a particular target heart rate zone to be respected faithfully. Even for those ready to train in higher zones, it is still important to vary training from easier demands of 40% capacity up to the higher ranges of 75-80% capacity. Constantly training in the more vigorous range can be a source of physiological stress and oxidative stress. Far too overlooked in conventional training – we should all make disease prevention a focus of our training. Many traditional training beliefs are not wise for disease prevention.

Something that women are often far more guilty of is appreciating our muscle mass. Simply put, out muscle mass is our BFF(best friend forever)  in life. Besides the obvious functions, little known is our immune system is helpless without strong muscles. Muscles are the pump of the immune system. Our power pump muscles as I refer to above are our gluteal and leg muscles. Strengthening the power pump muscles is vital for heart health, venous return (VR) to the heart. VR is the flow of blood back to the heart. Muscles are also vital for metabolic control, adiposity management, hormonal and mood control.

The 4Life poles are fully adjustable – allowing a proper fit. It is a very difficult exercise for me to be at the gym, watching MOST people destroying their posture on the machinery. Most people have compromised posture due to their day to day activities – screen time, driving, poor muscle balance…rounded shoulder syndrome, spinal subluxation (misaligned back), exaggerated pelvic tilt.  Good posture affects every aspect of bodily function, comfort, and healthy aging.

A feature of the 4Life poles I especially appreciated was the lack of vibration. Many poles you feel a rippling through the body – not cool. Those vibrations add up to stress on the joints over the years. At every age, we must prioritize keeping our body “young” flowing smoothly.

The handles do not have straps – personally I find straps a nuisance as well as a potential danger. There is no hand cramping or sweaty palms due to the shape.

Every major city has pole walking clubs – and if you do live in a town without, or there are no groups near you – start one. We are social creatures. An analysis by Stats Canada provided convincing data highlight “the importance of frequent social participation to maintaining quality of life.”

“The greater the number of frequent social activities, the higher the odds of positive self-perceived health, and the lower the odds of loneliness and life dissatisfaction,”

Physical activity within a group – being part of a pack – greatly increases chances of adherence.

Breast Cancer Recovery with Cancer Exercise Specialist Shira Litwack
Shira Interviewed on Sirius XM “Doctor Radio” for Breast Cancer Awareness month

And speaking of adherence…….the fun factor with the 4Life poles…..I have never met anyone looking for another torturous, miserable thing to do in their life. Pole walking is fun and exhilarating.  It becomes a focal point of our schedule. And yes, living in Canada – the weather is a brutal reality. I actually used the poles with indoor training with clients. ………We called it – Dancing with the Poles!

I leave the 4Life poles in my front entrance – they are always clean and sparkling as they are durable and very washable looking brand new. They are a source of intrigue (unfortunately I find most people are unaware of pole walking) and motivation for the many people of all ages that come through my home.

Exercise should not be an intrusion in our lives, and should be something we look forward to. After using the 4Life poles  for a few months – myself and within my medical fitness practice – whether it be outside winter and spring or inside Dancing with the Poles” …..they provide hours of invigorating and fun, complete exercise. Get trained with them properly, and reap the benefits for years!

Sports Bra – A Woman’s BFF Best Fitness Friend

Sports Bra – Ladies – Truly Your Very Best Fitness Friend!

Sports Bra Ladies: Workouts are NOT the time to let it hang or for the frilly little number!

I see this mistake every day of my life. Sorry for being so blunt but not reigning in “the girls” during physical activity – Big Mistake! Irrelevant of size, for aesthetic, health, posture….

wearing the best sports bra is your most important piece of fitness equipment. 

Just because it is a name brand, or the brand makes frilly popular regular bras, does not imply the exercise bras are effective.

Sports Bra for breast health Best In Health RadioThere is no question, especially if we exercise in a public place such as a gym or going out for a run – we want to feel attractive – let’s face it, it makes us feel better about ourselves, which helps us maximize our effort and performance. The money women spend on the cutest workout tanks and shorts never ceases to amaze me. The fact is a good sports bra should reduce breast movement by 50%. Breasts can move about 14 cm up and down, side to side in training. A really good sports bra has been proven to reduce this up to 75%.

The most important investment in workout attire by far are the right workout shoes for your shaped foot and gait, and the the best possible workout bra. My picks are listed below.

Women have become much more in tune with breast health – a supportive bra is an imperative part of breast health.  But please choose a bra that still makes you feel attractive, yet meets certain criteria. Yes, you will find one.

First let’s understand why a good sports bra is so important:

Cooper’s Ligament – help her out please!!!!  Very simply – connective tissue that gives the Sports Bra Breast Cancer Recovery Best In Health Radio.breast that beautiful shape. The force of gravity, multiplied by impact…not a girl’s best friend. Nobody wants sagging breasts. A certain amount of impact is a necessary aspect of exercise – mineralize those bones – but as everything in life there are good points and not so good.  Movement and impact tears at the elastin & collagen, which are not as resilient over time to start with. And BTW – there are GREAT strength training exercises to give Cooper hope and strength! Cooper also believes in slow and steady wins the race……quick weight loss elicits rather spiteful hormonal responses – which further miff  Cooper.

Back, shoulder and neck strain: Posture is another gift. Both a lack of wearing the right fitting sports bra & a lack of a sports bra at all can cause great pain and erode posture. Wear a bra that offers support all around – so shoulders do not carry the burden which often causes us to curl forward, placing stress on the neck. We should still be able to keep good posture with shoulders back. Especially important for larger cup sizes.

I happen to be a big supporter of wider straps, racerback bras, not just a compression bra, but encapsulating (complete cups around each breast). Don’t like underwires? There are MANY sports bras available now that are excellent, without an underwire.

Breathing: Yes breathing is a critical aspect of exercise. Tugging breasts (ouch at just the thought) can easily cause a shortness of breath. Proper oxygen consumption during exercise, full deep breaths is #1 to fitness.

Heart Health:  I will say I have NOT seen direct  studies on this….however I refuse to believe heavy breast movement is good for the heart. Just the obvious shortness of breath is a huge strain on the heart.

A few other quick points:

I fully suggest a sports bra for active days. It doesn’t have to be the full support for athletic training – however breast movement can happen and challenge even at lower activity levels.

Please, no built in bra tops for working out. Poor impostor.

Do not ever put sports bras in the dryer, No fabric softener or bleach

Please do not choose a bra according to what your girlfriend wears. Your relative size between back width and cup size will severely influence choice of sports bras. Larger cup size, smaller back – slam dunk for the most difficult shape to fit.

Do Not expect an unbiased evaluation of proper fit and support of a sports bra from your favorite sexy bra store. Besides the obvious go tos of Victoria’s Secret, Lulu Lemon, depending on your level of activity, size, shape…..please look at Under Armour (I happen to believe they provide excellent chest armor), Nike, Shock Absorber,

Very few things in life are forever. Your sports bra is NOT one of them.