Trident Health System - October 01, 2023

A 40-year study reported on by the American Cancer Society (ACS) in October 2022 found that in around 30% of breast cancer diagnoses, excess weight was directly tied to the diagnosis in women. The positive news associated with this finding is that women can now consider physical activity and maintaining a healthy body weight as tools in lowering their risk for breast cancer. Additionally, the ACS reports that physical activity is typically helpful and safe for those both currently undergoing treatment and recovering from breast cancer.

Fitness to lower your risk

If you're not currently an exercise enthusiast, that's ok. Start slow by aiming to simply limit the amount of time you spend sitting. Unfortunately for many, working still means sitting for long hours throughout the day. Try these tips to incorporate more movement into the work day.

  • If you're heading into the office try walking or biking to your work destination if possible, take the elevator vs. the stairs, and skip sending an email for walking over to a co-worker's desk.

  • Whether at home or in the office, you always deserve a lunch break. Consider taking a walk during that time and eating when you return to your desk.
  • When you've been sitting for too long a smart watch can help prompt you to stand and take a lap around your work space. If a smart watch isn't for you, try a pedometer. Counting your daily steps can help you understand how much your sitting and when to increase your activity.

In addition to the above, the ACS recommends moderate exercise, like walking, yoga, golfing or general garden maintenance for at least two and a half hours spread over the course of your week. Though it's important to note that more vigorous activity, like dancing, jogging, fast bicycling or swimming for at least 75 minutes during the week, when combined with the regular movement, may be most effective at lowering your risk. Regardless of where you are at in your fitness journey, incorporating and expanding upon any of these elements can help to reduce your risk for breast cancer.

Fitness while fighting, living with or recovering from breast cancer

The type and stage of your cancer, as well as the cancer treatment and medications, may impact your ability to exercise. Your healthcare team can talk with you about the best way to exercise, including if you should limit any activities. In general, physical activity is encouraged because it has been shown to reduce treatment side effects like lessening depression and anxiety, reducing fatigue, improving your appetite and it could even help you sleep better.

Aim to stay as active as you can. Don't be dismayed if you need to exercise a bit less or at a lower intensity if you've typically been very active. If you were inactive before, starting with short, low intensity walks is a great starting point. As cheesy as it sounds, keeping your exercise easy and fun is the best way to encourage consistency. Set long- and short-term goals, and reward yourself when you've reached them!

Your fitness journey

Although the ACS provides these recommendations, how much you exercise can differ for each person. The goal is to help you maintain or improve upon your body's strength and range of motion so you can function in all of your normal activities. It's important to start slow and do what you feel up to doing, particularly if you're currently fighting or recovering from breast cancer. As always, your healthcare team is here for you and is a great resource for you to rely on when starting an exercise regimen.

In addition to exercise, another way to stay on top of your health is by getting regular mammograms. We are committed to providing comprehensive breast health services, including mammograms, breast ultrasounds and biopsies. Schedule your mammogram here.