Exercise More to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Sixty minutes per day better for postmenopausal women

Exercise More to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Increasing exercise to reduce body fat could decrease the risk of breast cancer for postmenopausal women, a new study finds. Body fat has been associated with an increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.

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Canadian researchers found postmenopausal women who exercised at least 300 minutes per week were more successful at reducing total body fat compared to those who exercised for half the time.  More than 100 studies support fat loss as an important factor in reducing the risk for postmenopausal breast cancer.

For overall health, public health officials recommend we be physically active for at least 150 minutes per week at moderate intensity, or 60 to 75 minutes per week at vigorous intensity.  That amounts to about 30 minutes per day, five days per week.

“A longer duration of exercise is probably better than what we’ve recommended in the past,” says Halle C.F. Moore, MD, a breast cancer oncologist at Cleveland Clinic.

For the year-long study, 400 inactive postmenopausal women were evenly divided into two exercise groups. The women, all of whom had a body mass index (BMI) of 22 to 40, exercised either for 300 or 150 minutes per week. They were permitted to perform any type of aerobic physical activity as long as it raised the heart rate 65 to 75 percent of their maximum.

The women were asked not to change their diet. However, for women who had previously been inactive, adopting a rigorous exercise regime was likely difficult.

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“Not all participants were able to adhere to the recommended amount of exercise,” says Dr. Moore.

For those who could complete the recommended amount of exercise, the average reductions in total body fat were larger in the group who exercised for 300 minutes. Women in the 300-minute group also saw greater decreases in total abdominal fat, BMI and waist circumference compared to the 150-minute group.

“A high ratio of waist to hip circumference has been linked to a variety of medical conditions,” says Dr. Moore.

The researchers concluded that in previously inactive postmenopausal women, moderate to vigorous exercise for 300 minutes per week is better than 150 minutes per week for reducing total body fat, especially for obese women. The results suggest the possibility of lowering risk for postmenopausal breast cancer.

How do I get started?

Gaining weight during menopause is a common problem for women.

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Before starting an exercise program, it is important to talk with your doctor to determine any limitations you may have in regards to exercise.

Aerobic exercise helps to improve heart and lung function. Walking, swimming, running, biking, dancing, and hiking are just a few examples of aerobic exercise. The benefits of aerobic exercise include:

Building a routine takes time. Slowly incorporate exercise into your weekly routine, starting with a reasonable amount you can build on. Eventually, you should be able to incorporate some type of physical activity into every day.

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