Research links regular physical activity to lower risk of postmenopausal and possibly pre-menopausal breast cancer, including recurrence. Physical activity has the capability to protect against breast cancer by strengthening the immune system, reducing levels of both reproductive and insulin-related hormones, and by fostering weight control. Regular physical activity can also help you gain strength, achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, boost self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and combat fatigue.
Physical Activity Recommendations
Initial fitness goals should include a moderate level of physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day. As fitness improves, aim for 60 minutes of moderate activity or 30 minutes of vigorous activity daily with strength training (working your muscles against weight or resistance to increase strength) 2-3 days a week. If you are new to exercise and confused about how to start, try spacing out your 30 minute exercise into separate bouts of 10-15 minutes. Walking is the simplest way to start and continue an exercise regimen. Walking has the lowest dropout rate of any type of exercise and it costs nothing to get started. Be sure to choose activities you enjoy—think about variety to stay motivated.
Tips for Increasing Physical Activity:
- Work in the garden or mow the grass. Using a riding mower doesn’t count! Rake leaves, prune, dig and pick up trash.
- Walk or bike to the corner store instead of driving. When walking, pick up the pace from leisurely to brisk and choose a hilly route.
- Park farther away at the shopping mall and walk the extra distance. Wear your walking shoes and sneak in an extra lap or two around the mall.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or get off a few floors early and take the stairs the rest of the way.
- Participate in or start a recreation league at your company or form a sports team to raise money for charity events.
- Join a fitness center or YMCA near your job. Work out before or after work to avoid rush-hour traffic, or drop by for a noon workout. Schedule exercise time on your business calendar and treat it as any other important appointment.
- Get off the bus or subway a few blocks early and walk the rest of the way to work or home. Walk around your building for a break during the work day or during lunch.
- Plan family outings and vacations that include physical activity (hiking, backpacking, swimming, etc.) See the sights in new cities by walking, jogging or bicycling.
- Make a date with a friend to enjoy your favorite physical activities. Do them regularly. Take dancing lessons!
- Work out in water. Water is gentle on your joints, and you can’t fall!
- Consider learning Tai Chi, Qi Gong or yoga. These forms of exercise stimulate the mind/body connection and can be relaxing and rewarding, both physically and mentally.
**Exercise guidelines for each person vary depending on your medical condition and past fitness level. It is important to get approval from your health care provider before starting a new physical activity regimen.
[i] American Institute for Cancer Research: Start Where You Are: http://preventcancer.aicr.org/site/DocServer/StartWhereYouAre.pdf?docID=4121
[ii] American College of Sports Medicine’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention and After Cancer Diagnosis