Editor’s Note: Guidelines on diet and physical activity are updated as scientific evidence continues to evolve. Please read the most recent recommendations here.
Engaging in regular exercise is good for you for many reasons, and one of them is to lower your risk of getting breast cancer. Many studies conducted over the past 20 years have shown consistently that an increase in physical activity is linked to a lower breast cancer risk.
How exercising lowers breast cancer risk is not fully understood. It’s thought that physical activity regulates hormones including estrogen and insulin, which can fuel breast cancer growth. Regular exercise also helps women stay at a healthy weight, which also helps regulate hormones and helps keep the immune system healthier.
Unfortunately, there is not a magic number of hours that a woman can exercise to prevent cancer from occurring or to lower risk. But we do know that some is better than none, and more is better than less. Also, more vigorous activity is more effective than less vigorous activity. The American Cancer Society recommends all adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes hours of vigorous intensity activity each week, preferably spread throughout the week.
Examples of moderate intensity activities include brisk walking, dancing, leisurely bicycling, yoga, golfing, softball, doubles tennis, and general yard and garden maintenance. Examples of vigorous intensity activities include jogging, running, fast bicycling, swimming, aerobic dance, soccer, singles tennis, and basketball. All of these activities are in addition to those that are part of your usual routine at home and work – things like walking from your car to the garage, and climbing a flight of stairs.
Another advantage to exercising is that when you’re exercising, you aren’t just sitting. Evidence is growing that sitting time, no matter how much exercise you get when you aren’t sitting, increases the likelihood of developing breast cancer and some other types of cancer, as well as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
For many of us, working means sitting at a desk for long stretches. That makes it even more important to incorporate activity into your day. Here are some ideas:
For people who haven’t exercised in a while, it makes sense to start slowly and build up gradually. And clear any new activity with your doctor.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
American Cancer Society news stories are copyrighted material and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.