As if you needed another good reason to move more, here’s one worth smiling about.
It is widely known that spending large amounts of your day being inactive can make it more likely that you’ll develop chronic health conditions. Extensive research has also shown that increasing physical activity levels can lower your risk for conditions like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. But did you know that it may also lower your risk for breast cancer?
Exercise affects the body in many positive ways. For one, it helps you get down to or maintain a healthier weight, when combined with a healthy eating plan. This helps prevent serious health conditions, in addition to making you feel and look better.
Research shows that fat loss is a major factor in reducing the risk for postmenopausal breast cancer. One study showed about a 20% lower risk of breast cancer in study participants who exercised the most compared to those who exercised the least, regardless of family history. Even women at a greater risk for breast cancer were shown to benefit from increased physical activity. These findings suggest that even a modest level of physical activity is associated with reduced breast cancer risk across the risk spectrum.
There are several reasons why exercise may help lower the risk of developing cancer, although the exact reason is still not fully understood. These include:
- Helping to prevent obesity, which is a risk factor for many cancers
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving immune system function, which can help slow the growth of cancer cells
- Lowering estrogen levels, which is associated with cancer development and progression
- Preventing high insulin levels, which is also associated with cancer development and progression
The American Cancer Society® recommends that adults spend at least 150 minutes doing moderate exercise or 75 minutes doing intense exercise throughout the week. This doesn’t mean you have to head to a gym or lace up your sneakers to go for a run. Any physical activity you can add to your day helps.
For some people, getting in the recommended amount of physical activity is easy, but for others it’s a challenge. Being inactive is a natural part of many people’s daily routines, which may include driving to work and sitting at a desk most of the day. Working from home can make it even harder to move much during work hours, especially if you don’t leave the house throughout the day. Because of this, it takes a little more effort to find ways to move—but it’s worth the effort.
Here are some suggestions to get your body moving more:
- Wear a pedometer or activity tracker as motivation to increase your daily steps
- Use a stationary bike, treadmill or elliptical while watching TV
- Choose the stairs over the elevator whenever possible
- Park further from your destination when you go out to increase how much you walk
- Take a walk on your lunch break or during a phone meeting
- Leave the office/house to buy lunch instead of getting it delivered (walk to pick it up if possible)
- Catch up with your spouse, partner, kids or friends while strolling around the neighborhood
There are so many reasons to embrace a more active lifestyle. Lowering your risk of breast cancer may be one more reason to add to the list.
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Date Last Reviewed: August 17, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD