A recent study shows exercise can play a significant role in the recovery stage for breast cancer survivors.

Though the road to recovery is long, there is hope for the many survivors, Dr. Blair Bigam, a doctor in emergency medicine at McMaster University, explained to CBC's Island Morning.

"Breast cancer treatment really takes a toll on the human body. Whether that's from surgery, radiation, hormone therapy or chemotherapy, it can really knock you out a bit," Bigham said.

"We know that afterwards, if you survive you have many years of cognitive dysfunction."

The dysfunction comes in the form of memory loss, difficulty paying attention to things, sleep deprivation and generally feeling like your brain processing time is a bit slower, Bigham explained.

The next step in pushing back against the dysfunction is exercise.

15 vigorous minutes of exercise per day

Exercise is anti-inflammatory, when you exercise you reduce chemicals that fight inflammation, according to Bigham.

In a recent study done by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, a group of breast cancer survivors were gathered into two groups. One focused on heavy exercise, the other on stress reduction and healthy eating.

woman jogging feet

"About 72 women are diagnosed every day, that’s about 25,000 a year. The good news, though, is that four out of five will survive," says Dr. Blair Bigham. (Sarbinaz/Shutterstock)

The group that exercised more vigorously than the other, Bigham said, showed much greater brain function because of it.

"What they found is that 15 minutes of extra vigorous exercise a day, compared to about four to five [minutes] in the other group, was very very helpful at reducing the cognitive problems that come after treatment," Bigham said.

"That doesn't seem like a lot, but if you're not focused on that, if you don't have the intention of doing that everyday, I can see how it would fall by the wayside in their very very busy lives."

Doctors need to focus on recovery as well, Bigham says

While the study helps show that exercise helps in relieving the brain fog caused by cancer, doctors need to play a greater role in the recovery stage, Bigham said.

"Often we forget that there's a long road to recover even after cure to get someone back to feeling as good as they felt before they got their cancer diagnosis," he said.

"We need to focus more on the recovery phase. Early on doctors should be having discussions with their patients about how to get active again."

With files from Island Morning