Breast Cancer Healthy Habits Group

Country SA PHN funds the extremely successful Healthy Habits program delivered by Sonder (in Gawler, Barossa, Yorke and Northern, Eyre and Far North, Flinders and Upper North) and FocusOne Health (throughout the Riverland Mallee Coorong, Limestone Coast). Identified need for a Breast Cancer Healthy Habits Group in Clare led to Sonder creating the program in consultation with the McGrath Foundation Breast Cancer Nurse Lindi Brokenshire and coordinated by Optimum Exercise Physiology Senior Exercise Physiologist Lisa Parkinson.

The Group commenced with Lisa providing a free education session to the local Breast Cancer Support Group on the benefits of exercise during and following breast cancer treatment, along with a short exercise session that could be replicated at home by the participants. 

Following this introductory session 12 women registered for the group, all at different stages of their breast cancer journey. The participants attended an assessment and a weekly exercise group, supervised by Lisa, where they were provided with their own program to work towards their own goals, within their own capabilities. 

At the end of the group program every participant improved at least one fitness measure, with many improving on all aspects including reduction of waist and hip measurement, improvement in arm and leg strength and cardiovascular endurance.  In addition to the physical benefits, the participants reported benefits to their mental health and well-being through the social and supportive group atmosphere. 

These results and feedback highlight how important programmed exercise is to women undergoing breast cancer treatment. This aligns with the key recommendation of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia that exercise be embedded as part of standard practice in cancer care and that all members of the multidisciplinary cancer team should promote physical activity and include referral to an Exercise Physiologist.

One of the participants Amanda Schultz, when entering the program had high blood pressure, was on anti-depressants, had been diagnosed with severe fatty liver and a gall bladder issue. After radiotherapy Amanda was finding day to day activity very tiring and had a sedentary lifestyle with no energy or motivation to exercise.

Amanda said the Breast Cancer Healthy Habit Group helped her to alter her diet to be healthier. It also helped Amanda to recognise that she needed more direction in her life and that list making was helpful to give her direction and helped her to not slip back into bad habits.

Amanda also started exercising more – walking on her own and doing exercises at home.

Amanda’s assessment at the end of the program showed her blood pressure had gone down, and cardio-vascular participation had increased. Amanda had also lost some weight and a few centimetres from her waist and hips.

“Overall I feel really great and certainly notice if I haven’t been active or had my usual healthy diet,” said Amanda.

“I’m also pleased to say that during this process I have successfully weaned off my anti-depressants, under doctor supervision and I haven’t looked back.”

Amanda also said she very much enjoyed the comradery and felt she had more energy and was happier overall.

“I loved that all the people involved were so supportive, informative and friendly,” said Amanda.

“It made the whole process inviting and easy to take part in and be inspired by.

The results have prompted me to continue exercising on my own.”

Amanda recommends the program to family and friends with much enthusiasm.

“Give it a go and I mean really give it a go,” said Amanda.

“Listen to the advice given, make changes, even if small.”

“Overall, they all start to make a marked difference to more than just one aspect of life and before you know it you are feeling amazing and have more energy to use in so many different aspects of your life.”

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