Though preventing breast cancer entirely is not possible, there are many steps you can take to reduce your risk of development. Perhaps the biggest thing you can do that studies show correlates to preventing breast cancer is exercise. And thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to get moving and live an active lifestyle.
Regular physical activity regulates hormones including estrogen and insulin, which can keep breast cancer at bay and keep your immune system healthier. Women who increase their physical activity after menopause may also have a lower risk of breast cancer than women who do not, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Move the right amount
There’s no exact number of hours of exercise that you can get that will prevent breast cancer or lower your risk entirely. However, remember that any exercise is better than no exercise, and the more intensive the workouts, the better. Experts recommend getting about 75 minutes of vigorous, intense activity spread throughout each week. Start slow and find a rhythm and routine that works for you based on your personal fitness goals, your age and abilities, and what you need to work on physically. Consult your physician before starting any strenuous workout routines.
Even the little things count
Leading an active lifestyle means moving whenever possible and looking for any opportunity to be up and on your feet. This could include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking a walking break during the workday, using a stationary bicycle or treadmill while watching TV, or even signing up for a new sport you’ve always wanted to try.
The best time to start is now
Women who develop healthy lifestyle habits earlier in life will reduce their chances of developing breast cancer than those who don’t start exercising regularly until later in life. A University of Southern California School of Medicine study interviewed 1,090 women, half of whom had been newly diagnosed with breast cancer, while the other half did not. The study closely matched women on both sides in terms of age, race, and background. The study showed that exercise levels from menstruation to one year prior to diagnosis played a significant factor in breast cancer development, with a stronger positive effect for those who had also given birth during that time, according to a summary of the study published by the Maurer Foundation. The researchers ultimately concluded that adolescent and adult women should prioritize regular physical exercise programs as a critical component of a healthy lifestyle.
Certain types of exercises are appropriate for certain age categories, as well as personal skill level and interest. Here are some exercises best suited for every age range:
Your 20s and 30s are typically filled with energy and strength, so this is the time to make physical fitness a lifetime habit. Explore different activities while focusing on cardio and muscular training. At the upper end of this range, interval-based cardio like spinning or high-intensity interval training can help burn calories and battle the slight loss of metabolism that comes with this age. Be sure to keep up with strength training as well, such as stair-climbing or using an elliptical.
40s and 50s
As your metabolism slows, emphasize activities that work out numerous large muscle groups or the entire body. Keep up with your moderate to intense cardio and carve out times each week for strength training, ideally twice a week. Pay special attention to your legs, with activities like squats, biking, and jogging.
60s and up
Continue regular aerobic activity and strength training if you can. Work on balance exercises such as walking heel to toe and standing on one foot to prevent balance problems as you get older.
Ultimately, the best exercise is the one you enjoy doing, which will lead to fitness being a lifelong habit. Have fun along the way, and enjoy the benefits of a lower risk of breast cancer along with a myriad of other satisfactions.
The Active Aging Series is brought to you by our partner, Cambrian Homecare. Cambrian Homecare has been assisting individuals to stay independent in their homes for 25 years. Flexible experience you can trust, when the best place is still at home.