Right now, while you’re still in charge and have 100% free rein to exercise on your own terms, find and do an activity that you love, because strong recovery and survivorship, even living with metastatic breast cancer, relies on physical strength.

I was raised to be a saver of money.

Even as a very young girl I had my own savings account passbook.

If you’re of a certain generation, you probably had one, too. If you’re not, you have no idea what I’m talking about.

At about the same size as a passport, my personal passbook (aka bankbook) showed each and every deposit to and withdrawal from my small but growing bank account.

I tracked those transactions with fervor; watching that balance grow made me giddy.

My mom would drive me to the local fancy and serious bank where I’d hand over my earnings and passbook to the bank teller. After counting the cash and recording the checks, the teller safely snuggled all my earnings into a locked drawer beneath the counter before calling into service a complicated-looking machine to produce my new balance (plus interest!) in neatly printed order.

Rarely did I make a withdrawal.

I was all about loading up that account with babysitting and birthday money. After I landed my first “official job”, complete with tax and medicare withholding, I ramped up my saving even more.

A growing bank balance gave me a feeling of independence, satisfaction and pride; just knowing I had access to my very own stash was comforting.

That’s called FREEDOM, baby!

Which is what I’m writing about today – HEALTH FREEDOM – that comes by way of giving TIME center stage.

The First “T” in the FITT Principle

If you’ve read Parts I, II and III of this 6-part blog, you know I’ve been teaching about The FITT Principle, a collection of variables that can be infinitely manipulated to positively or negatively impact your fitness program and level.

F – Frequency (Part II)

I – Intensity (Part III)

T – Time (Part IV)

T – Type (Part V)

The driving theme behind this series is how exercise may help reduce risk of recurrence, improve breast cancer outcomes, mitigate fatigue, speed healing, and minimize treatment side effects.

With so much goodness to be had with a regular exercise program, why on earth wouldn’t every person diagnosed with breast cancer immediately start (or maintain) a consistent workout routine?

Why Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors Aren’t Moving

Research estimates indicate that few cancer survivors (you’re considered a cancer survivor from the moment of diagnosis) meet physical activity guidelines. In one study of breast and prostate cancer survivors, breast cancer survivors reported more total baseline exercise barriers compared with prostate cancer survivors. (1, 2)

One of the barriers commonly reported?

Too busy. 

How Much Exercise Time Must You INVEST?

Time spent exercising is like money saved to prepare for a financially secure future.

A concentrated, deliberate effort toward consistency and generosity in feeding your savings account ensures a comfortable financial future, just as regularly feeding your exercise account builds a stash to draw on when you need it.

Depending on your level of commitment, it can take years to save enough for a comfortable retirement, but thankfully, saving enough for a comfortable level of fitness doesn’t take nearly that long.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the recommended amount of time to engage in exercise each week is 150 minutes (learn more here)(3, 4)

In order to get in 150 minutes each week, regardless of how you parse it out, you’ll need to increase your exercise FREQUENCY, and the best way to do that is by making TIME to exercise.

That’s the elephant in the room.

We know we SHOULD exercise, we truly WANT to exercise.

We’re just not making TIME.

What’s STOPPING You?

While convincing research supporting physical activity’s role in reducing risk of breast cancer recurrence appears almost weekly, we don’t yet have breast cancer specific outcome guidelines such as, “20 minutes of exercise does “X” or “40 minutes does “Y”.

But that doesn’t matter.

We can’t wait for that level of detail. We already know there’s a positive connection, the goal now is to get moving and keep moving.

If the 150 minutes/week guideline intimidates you, remember you can structure that time in an infinite number of ways to work with your schedule.

For example, you could exercise:

  • 22 minutes seven days/week
  • 30 minutes five days/week
  • 50 minutes three days/week
  • 75 minutes two days/week

Hate the idea of scheduled exercise? Find ways to weave more activity into each day.

You could garden, walk around the block or your entire town (depending on your level of fitness and ability), sit in a chair and march in place, do arm circles while you watch television, go up and down stairs in your home, or turn on loud music and dance with wild abandonment.

I know you have laundry. And grocery shopping. And catching up on all your social media feeds.

And some days you just don’t want to exercise.

But at the end of the day?

What is more important or precious than your health?

If you’re newly diagnosed, you’ll soon have limitations placed on your ability to move freely and at will without restrictions. It’s temporary, but it stinks.

Right now, while you’re still in charge and have 100% free rein to exercise on your own terms, find and do an activity that you love, because strong recovery and survivorship, even living with metastatic breast cancer, relies on physical strength.

Five Excuse Busters

#1. I don’t make time to exercise.

For most people, especially women, NOT ENOUGH TIME is the #1 barrier.

We’re so busy taking care of everyone and everything else, our own needs/plans can get pushed aside.

Try carving out time on the weekend (which generally has a more flexible schedule), preferably first thing in the morning before your day gets away from you. Do 10 minutes of stretching as soon as you get out of bed, or take a 20-minute walk after your coffee/tea and before your shower.

Schedule it on your calendar, and paste a sticker on the days you work out. Scheduling creates a commitment between you and your calendar, and stickers make you feel accomplished!

While small doses may not feel like much, a little bit of something is always better than nothing, and you’re establishing a habit/routine that will see you through treatment.

#2. My schedule is already full, I can’t add one more thing.

Identify days where you can manipulate the TIME variable, and schedule exercise sessions accordingly.

Increase exercise time on the days you have more flexibility in your schedule, and squeeze in shorter bouts on heavily scheduled days.

Many people skip exercise entirely on the days they’re most busy; is it possible to shorten versus completely eliminate that workout?

#3. Exercise is boring.

That may be true, especially when you make yourself do an activity you dread.

Make it a point to do only exercises that you like, meet friends for a workout, mix up your routine between indoors/outdoors, strength/cardio, or high intensity/low intensity.

Thrive on competition? Challenge yourself with an organized group event.

#4. I’m ridiculously out of shape and it’s too hard to start over.

Start slow and easy.

One study showed results from a home-based exercise program (carried out during chemotherapy!) that included exercises with resistance bands for arms and legs and strength training for the upper body, combined with 30 minutes of brisk walking daily, which could be split into periods of 10-minute walks. (5)

#5. My bed is too cozy to leave and go work out, but I feel guilty when I don’t go. 

Do you know the saying “99% is a bitch, 100% is a breeze”? 

Chicken Soup for the Soul author Jack Canfield famously writes about the difference between an INTEREST and a COMMITMENT.

When you’re interested in something, you only do it when you feel like it or it’s convenient.
When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.

Decide which days you’ll get up early to exercise and COMMIT. On those days, there’s no “should I/shouldn’t I”, you’ve gotta go for it.

Wrap Up

The take-home message here is that regardless of how much or how little TIME you have, working toward that optimal 150 minutes/week is doable; but you may have to get creative to make it happen.

100% commitment to deliberate exercise TIME fills your HEALTH FREEDOM account. With physical resilience to draw from whenever you need it, you’ll feel prepared for whatever your upcoming treatment brings.

Next Week

Be sure to watch for next week’s blog where I discuss exercise TYPE – the final “T” in the FITT PRINCIPLE. You won’t want to miss this one!

Get my nutrition and fitness JUMPSTART worksheet FREE!


  1. Exercise among breast and prostate cancer survivors—what are their barriers?
  2. Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey FAQ’s – Survivorship
  3. World Health Organization Exercise Recommendations
  4. Centers For Disease Control & Prevention Exercise Recommendations
  5. Effects of Scheduled Exercise on Cancer-Related Fatigue in Women with Early Breast Cancer