Breast cancer is common – there’s a 1 in 8 chance that you or a woman you know will develop breast cancer at some point in her lifetime – and it can’t be prevented. However, there are things that you can do to improve breast health and lower your breast cancer risk. Making healthy life decisions, such as regular exercise and physical activity, can promote good breast health.
Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Women who are overweight and obese are at a higher risk for breast cancer than women at a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese also increases the risk of dying from breast cancer. While diet is crucial to keeping a healthy weight, exercise is equally important.
Crash diets and trendy meal plans aren’t the keys to staying at a healthy weight. You must adopt a lifestyle that includes healthy, balanced nutrition and plenty of exercise and physical activity.
Physical activity lowers breast cancer risk.
Physical activity alone has shown to improve breast health and decrease risk for breast cancer. According to the CDC, regular physical activity – at least 4 hours each week – can reduce your risk of breast cancer.
This doesn’t mean you have to find time for a 4-hour run every week, or even block out an hour for cardio 4 days a week, although that daily gym time is the best option for many of us. As long as you are active for at least 10 minutes at a time, you can count that activity towards your 4 hours. This makes it convenient to fit activity into your busy week. And of course, regular exercise provides many other health benefits as well.
Other ways exercise can lower breast cancer risk.
Estrogen is a natural and necessary hormone found in women. However, excess estrogen levels can be harmful, and can increase the risk of breast cancer. Physical activity may help improve breast health and lower breast cancer risk in some women by lowering estrogen levels.
Regular physical activity can boost the immune system. An improved immune system may help destroy or slow the generation of cancerous cells.
Physical activity is important for breast cancer survivors
While exercise can reduce your risk of breast cancer, it is also helps ensure breast cancer survivors stay healthy. Physical activity and exercise can help manage certain treatment side effects such as fatigue and depression.
The American Cancer Society recommends cancer survivors get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, in addition to at least 2 days of muscle strengthening activities of all major muscle groups, each week.
Of course, the more physical activity you get, the better. There are a lot of studies examining the relationship between exercise and breast cancer incidence, and the outcomes are often the same. Women who exercise and are physically active are at a lower risk for breast cancer. Some findings show a correlation between a decrease in breast cancer risk and an increase in frequency and duration of physical activity.
Anything is better than nothing.
Don’t be intimidated by a goal of 4 hours of exercise each week. While it would be great to get that much exercise, 4 hours might not be a realistic accomplishment for everyone. However, since exercise and breast health are so closely related, it’s important to get as much physical activity as you can.
- Even walking for 10, 20, or 30 minutes a day can be beneficial.Take brisk walk at lunchtime, walk your dog before and after work, walk your kids to school, or use a treadmill at the gym.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to your colleague’s office instead of using the phone. Make a game out of finding opportunities to move during your day.
- Take a class, and either sign up with a friend or make friends once you get to class. Having a class to go to and people who expect to see you can help add some accountability.
- The whole class thing isn’t for you? Many people find that jumping into their exercise gear as soon as they get out of bed and getting out for a run or following a YouTube workout first thing is easier than fitting exercise in later. “I get started before I really wake up,” one woman told us. “That way I don’t come up with reasons not to.”
Make it a point to park further away from buildings when you have to drive. Try walking or biking instead of driving whenever possible.
- Find an activity you love. Swimming, playing hoops with your kids, joining a hiking group, or going out dancing can all be fun ways to get your exercise in.
Every little bit helps, so get up and stay active!