Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among women, with one in eight women receiving a diagnosis at some point in her life. Such dismal statistics point to the need to apply preventative measures. Adding some physical activity into your daily agenda is a preventative tool that research continues to substantiate. The most recent study strengthened the link between exercise—including moderate walking—and a lower risk of breast cancer.
Walk Your Way to Wellness
The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention and funded by the American Cancer Society, found that post-menopausal women who walked for one hour a day at an average rate of three miles per hour had a 14% lower breast cancer risk. Those who participated in a more vigorous fast walk of 4.5 miles per hour—comparable to a light jog, cycling or lap swimming—reduced their breast cancer risk by as much as 25%.
The study followed 73,000 women, with an average starting age of 63, over approximately 14 years. The women completed an initial questionnaire that analyzed medical, environmental and demographic factors, as well as physical activity levels and time spent engaging in sedentary behaviors such as reading and watching television. Participants were reassessed every two years between 1997 and 2009. By the final follow-up, 4,760 women had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Researchers compared the activity levels of those with breast cancer and those without. Women who walked seven or more hours a week as their sole physical activity exhibited more protective benefits than those who walked for three hours or less.
This is great news for women who aren’t very active. No one is asking you to compete in a triathlon…simply put on those walking shoes for an hour a day and take a stroll around the block to help prevent not only breast cancer, but also a host of other life-threatening illnesses.
Another positive indication from this particular study is that researchers found no link between a sedentary lifestyle and breast cancer risk. Because researchers found an association, not a direct cause-and-effect connection, it can be assumed that while sedentary behavior does not increase breast cancer risk, implementing more physical activity into your daily life can help prevent it.
There is growing evidence that exercise prevents breast cancer, but while other studies have shown that exercise is beneficial to women with low BMI (body mass index) the American Cancer Society study showed that exercise is beneficial despite BMI, weight gain or postmenopausal hormone therapy.
Exercise and Estrogen
Exercise impacts breast cancer risk because it lowers the levels of estrogen, testosterone, insulin and growth factors—hormones that activate tumor formation and spur breast cancer growth. High levels of these hormones indicate a greater breast cancer risk.
What are you waiting for? Step away from the computer, put on those walking shoes and get a breath of fresh air today!