If you want to reduce your risk of breast cancer you need to move

Exercise (adapted, of course, to accommodate a patients’ reduced pace) can support both their physical and emotional well-being throughout their cancer journey. Photo: Pexels

(Tina Dawn/ VM Med) –– Exercising has been touted as a source of many good things when it comes to our overall health. Reducing our weight tends to reduce our chances of heart attacks and diabetes, as well as alleviates joint pain. Exercising also does wonders for our mental well being and quality of life.

But exercise can also be an important ally when it comes to the fight against breast cancer.  Studies continue to show a strong connection between physical activity and a reduced chance of breast cancer, with no less than the British Journal of Sports Medicine recently reaching the same conclusions. The study concluded that boosting physical activity levels and decreasing inactive time are highly likely to lower breast cancer risk regardless of family history.

Considering that our activity level is a modifiable factor that we can control at any point in our lives, it’s an important one that we should keep in mind when we are deciding what we can do to prevent breast cancer. In fact, too much sitting around, has been proven to increase cancer risk.

According to most healthcare advice and national exercise guidelines, adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, like brisk walking (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity like running) every week. They should also do some strength-training activities at least twice a week.

Physical activity during a cancer diagnosis

A breast cancer diagnosis can be a difficult time –both for the patient and their support system. Not everyone is able to maintain a consistent exercise routine while dealing with devastating news, tackling doctors’ appointments and their treatment, but doctors encourage patients to do so.

Exercise (adapted, of course, to accommodate a patients’ reduced pace) can support both their physical and emotional well-being throughout their cancer journey. Research shows that physical activity reduces treatment-related fatigue, helps lessen depression and anxiety, helps maintain a good level of heart and lung fitness, as well as muscle mass and strength.

It also helps the body heal, improves quality of sleep, may help reduce the amount of recovery time needed in the hospital, and even decreases the chance that some types of cancer will come back. In numerous studies, exercise has been associated with better survival rates for certain cancers, including breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

Even if you were not particularly active before your cancer diagnosis, an exercise program that meets your unique needs and is adapted to your current treatment plan and level of energy can help you get moving safely and successfully.

Planning an exercise program with your doctor

It’s important to talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program during or after cancer treatment, and especially after breast cancer surgery. Even if you were physically active before treatment, used to attending the gym or your twice-daily spinning classes, you may or may not be able to follow the same exercise routine as before while you are receiving treatment.

You need to allow your body time to adjust, and always be kind to yourself as you experience side-effects and reduced energy from cancer treatments. You should plan a new exercise program with the help of the medical team treating you.

Knowing the type of treatment that you are receiving and the level of energy you have, can allow experts to help you design a stretching, aerobics, and strengthening program that works best for you at the moment. Another thing to remember is that cancer treatments can affect your sense of balance. Loss of balance can be a side effect of cancer and its treatment. Balance exercises can help you regain the function and mobility you need to return to your daily activities safely.

Any movement is good movement

At the end of the day, multiple studies show that adding more movement in your daily routine in the form of exercise –whether it’s running, yoga, joining a recreational league, or choosing to power walk instead of taking your car—can only benefit you.

Both your physical and mental well being will improve, and your odds of breast cancer will decrease. That alone is worth putting those running shoes on for!