Breast Cancer and Exercise, Exercise

Exercise and Survival for Women with Breast Cancer

Doing the minimum amount of recommended exercise per week — 2.5 hours — both before and after being diagnosed with breast cancer with a high risk of recurrence is linked to better survival and a lower risk of recurrence, according to a study.

The research was published online on April 2, 2020, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Read the abstract of “Physical activity, before, during and after chemotherapy for high-risk breast cancer: relationships with survival.”

Exercise and Breast Cancer

Regular exercise is an important part of being as healthy as you can be. More and more research shows that exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back (recurrence) if you’ve been diagnosed, as well as the risk of developing breast cancer if you’ve never been diagnosed.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends that adults should do:

  • at least 2.5 hours to 5 hours of exercise at moderate intensity per week; brisk walking is considered moderate intensity
  • or 75 minutes to 2.5 hours of exercise at vigorous intensity per week; running or other high-intensity cardio is considered vigorous intensity

The HHS also recommends that adults should do muscle-strengthening exercises 2 or more days per week.

What this means for you

This study offers more evidence of how important exercise is for everyone, but especially for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Even if you didn’t exercise before being diagnosed, this study shows that doing just 2.5 hours of brisk walking per week — about 20 minutes each day — after you completed treatment can help lower the risk of the cancer coming back and also can help you live longer.

Still, we know that if you’re recovering from breast cancer treatment or are still in treatment, along with being busy with work, household chores, and family matters, finding time to exercise almost every day can seem impossible.

It can help to break up your exercise into 20- or 30-minute sessions that add up to at least 2.5 hours per week. Walking is a great way to start. Maybe you walk 15 minutes before going to work and 20 minutes on your lunch break. You can add a few more minutes by parking farther away from your building or taking mass transit. Or you can make plans to walk with a friend after work — you’re more likely to stick with an exercise plan if someone else is counting on you. Plus, you can socialize at the same time.

No matter how old you are, it’s never too late or too soon to get moving. And once you do start, keep at it!

Visit the Breastcancer.org Exercise section for tips on exercising safely and how to stick to an exercise routine.

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