Can Exercise Reduce My Risk of Breast Cancer?

The short answer from an oncologist
Female swimmer in the water at the edge of a pool

Q: To reduce my risk of breast cancer, should I add exercise to my routine?

The short answer is yes! Multiple studies have shown associations between physical activity and a reduction in both cardiovascular mortality and cancer mortality. According to one study, increasing exercise and decreasing body fat can reduce the risk of breast cancer for postmenopausal women.

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Researchers found that postmenopausal women who exercised at least 300 minutes per week were more successful at reducing their total body fat compared to those who exercised for half the time. That reduction in body fat may play a role in reducing breast cancer risk.

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. This amounts to about 30 minutes per day, five days per week.

But, according to some studies, a longer duration of exercise may be associated with lower breast cancer risk. While 30 minutes most days is good,  60 minutes of exercise most days may be even better when it comes to reducing risk of breast cancer.

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More than 100 studies also support the idea that fat loss is an important factor in reducing the risk for postmenopausal breast cancer. A high ratio of waist to hip circumference has also been linked to a variety of other medical conditions.

If you feel overwhelmed about starting to exercise, you’re not alone. 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.

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

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The benefits of aerobic exercise include:

  • Lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Increased endurance.
  • Lower resting heart rate.
  • Weight loss or maintenance.
  • Stress relief.
  • Improved sleep.

Before starting any exercise program, it’s important to talk with your doctor first.  

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