As we become more aware of the role that exercise plays in managing our risk factors for developing breast cancer and/or preventing a recurrence, it becomes apparent that being active is one of the top ways to avoid this disease.
Hundreds of studies show that getting exercise and avoiding weight gain can lower your risk of developing breast cancer. Most studies see a benefit at 30 minutes of walking a day. One large study by the American Cancer Society study tracked 72,000 postmenopausal women for 5 years and found that the most active women - those who engaged in activities like walking, running, swimming, tennis, biking, aerobics and dancing- had a 29% lower risk of breast cancer than the least active.
How is exercise protective? In postmenopausal women, since the ovaries are no longer producing estrogen, the main source of estrogen is fat cells. Reducing body weight and body fat with exercise decreases the amount of circulating estrogen that could stimulate breast-cell growth. Being heavy increases your risk by as much as 40%. One study showed that women who gained more than 20 pounds after age 18 had a higher risk of postmenopausal breast cancer than women who gained no more than 5 pounds.
If you have been exercising and you do develop breast cancer, you will be better prepared to tolerate the treatments. It's important to keep a positive mind set for getting through the treatment and think about living a healthy life afterward. You want to create a positive mental environment for your body where it will be nurtured and thrive.