Here’s a scary fact: at least one in eight women in the United States is now at risk of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. (link) Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer today, but the good news is that there is a simple activity that can help you avoid this dangerous disease: proper and moderate exercise.
The belief that exercise may help prevent cancer dates back to 1922, when two independent studies revealed that men with occupations that required higher amounts of physical activity had a lesser risk of dying from cancer. Today, two recent studies echoed these findings:
- Women who are active at home during the day and who engage in heavy lifting and carrying instead of sitting are 38 percent less likely to develop invasive breast cancer. (link)
- Strenuous activities in teens and post-menopausal women who moderately exercise also have a lower risk of breast cancer. (link)
“New research is underway to determine just how much exercise – either 150 minutes or 300 minutes a week – is best for cancer prevention, but it’s safe to say that starting an exercise regimen, if you’re not already participating in one, is a very wise strategy to optimize your health,” says Dr. Joseph Mercola.
How Does Exercise Help Prevent Breast Cancer?
One of the main reasons why exercise helps reduce your cancer risk is it lowers your insulin levels. Maintaining normal insulin levels is one of the most efficient ways to reduce your risk of cancer. Exercise also helps trigger apoptosis (programmed cell death), which kills cancer cells. The circulation of immune cells in your blood can also improve with proper exercise. Immune cells neutralize pathogens in your body and destroy precancerous cells before they turn cancerous.
“The better these cells circulate, the more efficient your immune system is at defending itself against infections and diseases like cancer,” says Dr. Mercola.
A 2000 study published in the British Medical Journal also said that exercise may influence your cancer risk directly because it affects several biological functions, such as:
- Cardiovascular capacity
- Pulmonary capacity
- Bowel motility
- Hormone levels
- Energy balance
- Immune function
- Antioxidant defense
- DNA repair
The problem is that public health guidelines today only focus on the aerobic aspect of exercise, which only leads to imbalances that may help prevent optimal health. This is why Dr. Mercola recommends following a well-balanced fitness routine that includes aerobics, strength training, stretching, and high-intensity interval training.
Exercise is Also Recommended for Breast Cancer Patients
The conventional advice to avoid exercise during and after cancer treatment is actually causing many patients more harm than good. This is because regular exercise actually provides a number of health benefits for cancer patients, such as:
- Better aerobic fitness
- Increased muscular strength
- Less fatigue
- Improved quality of life
Researchers from Harvard Medical School found out that women who did three to five hours of moderate exercise every week lowered their chances of dying from breast cancer by half, compared to sedentary women. This benefit was seen regardless of whether women were diagnosed early on or after the cancer has spread. (link) In fact, any amount of exercise increased a patient’s odds of surviving breast cancer.
“You may find that you need to exercise at a lower intensity or for shorter durations at times. Always listen to your body and if you feel you need a break, take time to rest. Even exercising for a few minutes a day is better than not exercising at all, and you’ll likely find that your stamina increases and you’re able to complete more challenging workouts with each passing day,” advises Dr. Mercola.
How to Choose the Best Exercise Program
Dr. Mercola says the best type of fitness program is one that improves your flexibility, strength, cardiovascular fitness, and fat-burning capabilities. It should also incorporate high-intensity Peak Fitness exercises.
“Generally, a 20-minute session about three times a week is all you need to stay fit, along with your strength-training, flexibility, stretching and so on, on alternate days,” he adds.
For an in-depth explanation of Dr. Mercola’s Peak Fitness program, read this fitness article.
Other Breast Cancer Prevention Strategies from Dr. Mercola
In the largest review of research into lifestyle and breast cancer, the American Institute of Cancer Research said that about 40 percent of U.S. breast cancer cases could be prevented if people made wiser lifestyle choices. (link) However, Dr. Mercola says these estimates are too low; he says that 75 to 90 percent of breast cancers could be avoided with these simple strategies:
- Eat a healthy diet consisting of whole foods and fresh vegetables. Avoid sugar, fructose, and other cancer-causing foods.
- Get enough vitamin D. By maintaining optimal vitamin D levels, your risk of cancer can decrease by half. The best way to get vitamin D is through sun exposure. But if this is not possible, then use a safe tanning bed or prudently take a vitamin D3 supplement.
- Get sufficient sleep. Ayurvedic medicine says that the ideal hours for sleep are between 10 pm and 6 am.
- Address your stress. Experiencing a traumatic or highly stressful event increases your risk of breast cancer 12 times more in the ensuing five years. Try the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to help yourself get rid of stress.