Exercise Linked with Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Aerobic ExerciseA number of studies have found an association between regular exercise and decreased breast cancer risk, and now a new study from Alberta Health Services in Calgary finds further supporting evidence in their trial of 320 postmenopausal women. 

The women in this study did aerobic exercise for at least 45 minutes five days a week over a period of 12 months. During the exercise, they monitored their pulse to achieve 70% to 80% of their heart rate reserve.

Periodically the researchers assessed blood levels of hormones and found that exercise was associated with modestly lowered levels of estradiol which is consistent with a slightly lower risk of breast cancer.

Aerobic exercise involves continuous activity that will increase your heart rate and maintain it at a higher rate for a sustained period of time, such as for 20-60 minutes.

In aerobic exercise, you continually move large muscles in the legs and buttocks. This action causes you to breathe more deeply and your heart to work harder to pump blood, thereby strengthening your heart and lungs.

What are aerobic activities? Walking briskly, bicycling or using a stationary bicycle, swimming, running, jogging, stepping machine or climbing stairs, vigorous dancing, ice skating or roller skating, aerobics (regular or low impact) cross-country skiing, rowing and playing racquetball or tennis. Riding a bike is an excellent aerobic exercise that will also strengthen the quadriceps muscles, (thigh muscles) that stabilize the knee joint. 

How long? Beginners might want to start with as little as three 10-minute walks a day, most days of the week.  People who are younger and more fit might want to aim for as much as 60 minutes a day, most days of the week.

How intense? To achieve the benefits of aerobic exercise, the activity must be continuous, without stopping, and strenuous enough to cause a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate. Hard enough to break a sweat, but not so hard that you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation. If you monitor your heart rate during exercise, what should it be? Calcuate your target heart rate for your age, using this calculater.

In addition to decreasing breast cancer risk, there are at least 17 other very good reasons to exercise regularly. Here is a list of the many benefits of exercise and some important tips on how to get started

Note: Before getting started on an exercise program, it’s always best to first consult with your doctor. 

Source: “For Older Women, Exercise May Cut Breast Cancer Risk”, MedPage Today, February 16, 2010

Source: Friedenreich CM, et al “Alberta physical activity and breast cancer prevention trial: Sex hormone changes in a year-long exercise intervention among postmenopausal women” J Clin Oncol 2010; DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2009.24.9557. 

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