It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means it’s an important time to consider steps we can take toward cancer prevention. While there is much we don’t know about the disease (and as a result, no way to guarantee we’ll never be diagnosed), research has pointed to many potential ways to reduce your risk.
If your daily life includes healthy habits and self-care, you’re likely already on the right track. One habit that can decrease your cancer risk and bring many other joys to your life is regular exercise.
Exercise has long thought to be associated with a lower cancer risk, especially when it comes to breast cancer, colon cancer, and endometrial cancers. A recent study by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute discovered that exercise could be linked to a lowered risk of 13 types of cancer, which is definitely reason to celebrate. (And to lace up our sneakers!)
When it comes to breast cancer, an exercise habit may be especially notable. Again and again, research has indicated that women who exercise regularly may have a lower risk of breast cancer than those who don’t. The reduction in risk may be as drastic as 30-40%! Many researchers believe that this is because exercise lowers blood estrogen, and higher blood estrogen levels are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
Of course, exercise also provides endless other positive influences on our health—it can lower stress, make us stronger, and help us socialize with friends who share a love of fitness, among other things.
When it comes to cancer, benefits like a healthy weight, faster digestion, and better regulated hormones are the reason exercise could make such a difference. Exercise also helps to reduce inflammation, improve our immune, and increase natural antioxidants, all of which might also help prevent cancer.
Exercising For Prevention
You’ll be in a great place with your fitness routine if you get two and a half hours of moderate activity per week or one hour and fifteen minutes of intense activity per week. (Of course, you can always do a combination of both, as well.) An easy way to squeeze this habit into your schedule is taking a 30-minute walk five days per week. If you’re new to exercise, prepare yourself: healthy activity is addictive. You just might find yourself in love with your new routine before you know it!
No matter how you choose to exercise, be sure to warm up and stretch before breaking a sweat and give yourself a cool-down afterward. Also, aim to sit less often during the day. Extended sitting is thought to increase cancer risk, so if you work at a desk, try to stand up and walk for a few minutes every hour or so. If you have any concerns about starting a new fitness routine, check with your doctor before diving in.
Fitness Habit Hacks
If you’re hoping to form a new exercise habit, the key is to find a routine you love. Give yourself the freedom to try every form of exercise that sparks your interest, and eventually a few activities will stick out as your favorites. Once you get to know your preferences, like whether you enjoy group or solo workouts and what time of day you like exercising best, you’ll find a routine you can look forward to.
Getting exercise is great for our bodies in so many ways, and its likely role in cancer prevention makes it that much better. All the more reason to make regular exercise a part of your life! Above all, don’t be hard on yourself if you have trouble sticking to a new fitness routine at first. Adjusting to habits takes time, and it doesn’t help that we all have very busy lives. If you’re having a hard time squeezing fitness into your schedule, look for ways to build it into your current lifestyle by working exercise into your household chores, playtime with your kids, or your morning commute.