A Workout a Day May Keep Cancer Away

Breast cancer risk lowered with moderate to vigorous physical activity

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) There have been several advances in breast cancer treatment. But it is natural to wonder if you could do something to avoid the disease. Researchers believe exercise may help fight off breast cancer.

The results of a recent study suggest that moderate-to-intense physical activity may reduce the risk of breast cancer.

According to the study, moderate-to-vigorous activity performed during leisure time was more beneficial for cancer risk reduction in post-menopausal women than in pre-menopausal women.

Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity performed as part of household work was linked to a lower breast cancer risk in women of all age groups.

"Stay physically active to be healthy."

This study was conducted by Lindsay C. Kobayashi, a PhD candidate at the Department of Public Health Sciences, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada, and colleagues.

The aim of this study was to examine the link between moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity and the risk of breast cancer in women before and after menopause.

Previous studies have suggested that moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer by reducing fat, inflammation and hormone imbalances that are associated with breast cancer.

Though most studies state that moderate-to-intense activity is more effective than light activity for breast cancer risk reduction, it is unclear how cancer risk is affected by exercise at different stages in life.

For this study, the researchers looked at 1,110 women with breast cancer and 1,172 cancer-free women in Canada. They used questionnaires to assess the women's lifetime leisure time and household and occupational activity levels. The women were screened for breast cancer using mammograms.

The average weekly metabolic equivalent hours were calculated for different age periods (12–17, 18–34, 35–49, and ≥50 years) and for the total lifetime. Metabolic equivalent hours are a measure of energy expenditure. The higher the metabolic equivalent hours, the higher the energy burned by the exercise or activity.

Post-menopausal women who got more than 22.9 metabolic equivalent hours of leisure time activity (equivalent to running 3 hours a week) through their lifetime or more than 61.1 metabolic equivalent hours of household activity (equivalent to 24 hours of household work per week) had a 40 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who got zero metabolic equivalent hours.

Among the post-menopausal women, leisure time moderate-to-vigorous physical activity after age 35 was strongly associated with reduced breast cancer risk, suggesting that older women reaped more benefits when they exercised.

Moderate to vigorous physical activity performed while engaging in day-to-day household work was associated with lower breast cancer risk at all adulthood ages.

"Our results are consistent with the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research guidelines for cancer prevention, which recommend 30 min/day of vigorous or 60 min/day of moderate activity," the authors pointed out in the study conclusion.

"This research supports the importance of leisure time moderate-to-vigorous physical activity after age 35 and highlights the role of moderate-to-vigorous household activities in reducing breast cancer risk among post-menopausal women," the authors concluded.

According to owner and head trainer at Integrated Fitness and dailyRx contributing expert Jim Crowell, "A quality diet and a quality workout regimen will show the best health metrics in the broadest demographic of people.  I have seen my clients get tremendous results in health metrics from a consistent workout routine."

"I am also a firm believer that, as health metrics decrease, as fat increases, and as lean muscle reduces, people are at greater risk of diseases, including life threatening diseases such as cancer.  Under a safe workout environment people would, in most cases, benefit greatly from adding a quality workout regimen to their daily lives," said Crowell.

The results of this study were published in July in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research/Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 7, 2013
Last Updated:
July 30, 2013