How DWTS' Samantha Harris Changed Her Approach To Exercise After Her Breast Cancer Diagnosis - Exclusive

Samantha Harris loves fitness — and her ripped abs and toned arms have often made the covers of fitness magazines such as Shape, Women's Running, and Muscle & Fitness Hers. According to an exclusive interview with Health Digest, she was considered the "healthy one" among her friends and family. But after her breast cancer diagnosis, Harris knew she needed to rethink her approach to exercise.

"I realized I was exercising specifically for extrinsic reasons," Harris said. "I wanted to look good in a dress on TV. I wanted to look strong and muscular and sculpted when I stood next to those dancers on 'Dancing with the Stars,' when I hosted for all those seasons. That wasn't a great reason to be exercising."

However, this is why many women exercise. According to a 2016 study in the International Journal of Liberal Arts and Social Science, women are more likely to exercise to lose weight and tone their bodies. But Harris realized that looking good in a dress wasn't the only reason to exercise.

Revamping her exercise approach meant recognizing how her stressful life affected her. "I did not understand the importance or even that I could manage stress or reduce the amount of the go-go-go, constant, nonstop world that I lived in. When I started to make these changes for myself, I realized I needed to become my healthiest healthy."

Exercising for longevity

Physical activity can improve your brain health, keep your bones strong as you age, and reduce your risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Type II diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can also help you live longer. A 2022 study in Circulation found that going beyond the recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week could reduce your risk of death by almost 25%. These benefits became much more important to Harris after she learned she had breast cancer.

"I want to live such a long life that I'll know my grandkids, and I get to get down on the floor and wrestle with them and get up without anyone helping me get off the floor at 90 years old with my great-grandkids," she said. "That became my reason for exercise."

Intrinsic motivations, such as exercising for overall health and well-being, tend to be more sustainable throughout your lifetime, according to a 2012 study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. To help her reach her goals, Harris turned to one of her favorite fitness activities — yoga.

Exercising to slow down and help others

Samantha Harris also shifted her approach to yoga. While at first, she wanted Madonna's yoga arms, Harris noticed how important it was to slow down. She learned to appreciate that more after her cancer diagnosis. "Allowing myself to be present and get in touch with my inner self, my gratefulness, and gratitude, and to slow down to breathe, [doing] breathwork and mindfulness, leads to longevity," she said. "It also — for breast cancer survivors — allows us to have a better outcome for our own longevity."

Her own experience with breast cancer opened her eyes to the need for yoga classes that understand the physical limitations and restrictions of breast cancer survivors. Harris now serves as the Susan G. Komen ambassador for YogaWorks Pink, which offers classes adapted for people going through breast cancer treatments. "Now there's a practice that can be had with the confidence that we're going to feel that we're in a safe place, learning moves that are not going to hurt us," she said. "It might actually alleviate pain, help fight the anxiety that many of us feel, alleviate depression, and lift our mood."

Breast cancer survivors can get free three-month access to the on-demand restorative classes on YogaWorks Pink. Those who want to support the breast cancer community can subscribe at a discounted rate, where 25% of the fees will go to Susan G. Komen.