Stronger: Post Breast Cancer Exercise

Shot of a senior woman using weights with the help of a physical therapist

While we’ve all heard that exercise is an important element of breast cancer prevention, it is also beneficial during and after treatment. Read more to see how this NASM Certified Personal Trainer was touched by a very special client on this family journey.

My name is Scott Keppel and I am the husband to one of the strongest, bravest and most beautiful women in the world, who also happens to be a 2x breast cancer survivor. That’s right, my wife Melissa had breast cancer twice and kicked its butt! This blog is for those of you going through post breast cancer, recovering from and/or the loved one of an individual dealing with either one of the previously mentioned phases. Let me start off with stating, I do not know what it’s like to have breast cancer or any form of cancer. I do know, however, what it’s like to be married to someone dealing with cancer, a father who’s helping his children cope with their mother having cancer, and a fitness and nutrition coach that is fortunate enough to be able to use his gifts and knowledge to empower others.

As a personal trainer, if you ever have a client that is going through treatment and/or has just completed treatment (radiation, chemotherapy, mastectomy, double mastectomy or whatever form of treatment she has gone through) these tips, suggestions, words of wisdom, or whatever you want to categorize them as are for you.

I realize, men can have breast cancer as well, but for our purposes we are going to focus on women recovering. These exercises listed below are great to help open up the shoulders, improve posture, increase mobility and boost strength. Keep in mind it’s always best to start off lighter and definitely use the OPT model when helping a woman with recovery. Chances are you will not use Power Phase 5 as it relates to exercises that incorporate the pectoral muscles, but stability, muscle endurance and strength in her upper body will help her with day-to-day activities. Please note that the exercise portion of a program post breast cancer is just a small part to helping your client recover and be her absolute best.

Here are a few of the exercises I typically recommend for a woman to do post breast cancer (with clearance from her physician).

I have found over the past 7 years training women post breast cancer that helping them with nutrition and mindset are far more important. The exercises are obviously important, but choosing foods that will help reduce inflammation, strengthen her immune system and help her feel good are crucial as well. Her mindset is another important factor to take into consideration. Keep in mind, if she had a double mastectomy she is going to look different than she did before and this can impact her self-image. Even if she does not have a mastectomy, knowing that “area” had cancer can sometimes cause a woman to feel uncomfortable. Your job as a coach is to help her become her very best and along the way coach her up on why lifting, cardio, proper nutrition and a healthy mindset are important. I know none of those I mentioned are cures, but incorporating any (preferably all of them) can help reduce the risk of the cancer re-occurring and improve overall health.

Out of all my specialties, this is one that I wish I never had to get. With that being said, I am grateful for the knowledge I now have in regards to post breast cancer fitness and my family is all the stronger for what we went through. Coaches, remember she may be tired at times, she may be sad at times, she may not love her body, she may be scared. All these are opportunities for you to show your worth and help her on her road to recovery.

Continuing education opportunities are available on exercise and breast cancer- check the NASM course provider list. Also, be sure to work with your clients healthcare team for clearance and program design guidance.

Scott Keppel is the owner of Scott’s Training Systems, a world-class coaching facility in Chandler, Arizona. He is a nationally certified trainer through NASM and ISSA. His mission is to empower women of all ages and fitness levels. For more information head to or check him out on Instagram at @stsnation.

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