How Exercise Affects Your Breast Cancer Risk

Breast cancer and exercise

Many women are aware of the risk breast cancer can present. Our fears around breast cancer can increase as we get older, which is only natural—after all, women in their fifties are more than 4x as likely to get diagnosed with breast cancer when compared with women in their 30s.

However, worrying about the increased risks of getting breast cancer as you age will not help your odds of staying healthy. If you are wondering what you can do to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer, there is one strategy you can employ that seems to have measurable benefits: exercise. 

What effect does exercise have on your risk of breast cancer?

Woman running and breast cancer prevention

According to research compiled by the Susan G. Komen foundation, women who exercise on a regular basis have a 10%-20% lower risk of getting breast cancer when compared to women who don’t exercise. That is quite a substantial difference in risk! 

For older women, the news is even better. It seems that the group that benefits most from exercise when it comes to breast cancer prevention is post-menopausal women. This means that women who have already gone through menopause have the most to gain from integrating exercise into their life to prevent breast cancer.

How often should I exercise to reduce my risk?

Most people understand that it is not enough to hop on the stair master for a 10-minute session once a week if you want to have better health outcomes. However, it might not take as much exercise as you think to reduce your risk.

According to the American Cancer Society, it is best to get between 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise each week or 75-100 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. In an ideal world, it is best to try and reach or exceed that 300-minute threshold. 

This might seem like a lot, but that breaks down to less than 45 minutes of exercise a day. Moderate exercise can be everyday activities, like taking the dog for a walk or playing physical games with children. It can be easier to integrate moderate exercise into your day if you are starting from a completely sedentary lifestyle. 

What if I don’t have time to exercise?

It can be hard for women to find time to exercise, even if they want to. If you are living a sedentary lifestyle, here are a couple of ways you can integrate exercise into your life.

Take advantage of little opportunities

woman taking the stairs

You don’t have to get all of your movement in one chunk of time. It can be much more manageable to break it up throughout the day. 

If you work in an office downtown, consider walking to a restaurant around the corner for lunch instead of ordering takeout. If you work on the 5th floor, taking the stairs instead of taking the elevator can be a great workout. A quick 10-minute walk around the block with your dogs can also add up if you do it daily.

Track your steps

It is hard to improve what we don’t measure. Wearing a watch that tracks your movement or a step counter can be just what you need to push yourself into moving more. It can also help you get realistic about how sedentary you currently are.


Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for women who want to increase their activity level but don’t know where to start. It doesn’t take expensive equipment or a gym membership. 

Taking a short walk regularly throughout your day can help you break up your work and mentally reset. If you take a 10-minute walk around the block every two hours, you will get all of your exercise in by the end of your 8-hour workday. 

Have fun

what to know before taking a dance class - women over 50

If you are committed to trying to increase your time spent doing high-intensity exercise as well as moderate-intensity exercise, your best bet is to go with a fun activity. It can be much easier to kayak or dance for an hour than run for an hour. 

If you get friends involved in your exercise, you can also use that time to fill up your social battery as well.

Listen to your body

Don’t forget—not all exercises are created equally, especially when it comes to aging bodies. 

High-impact exercises like running can cause significant damage to the joints. If your body is telling you that an exercise isn’t working for you—listen. You might not be ready for high-intensity exercise right off the bat. As long as you are moving in the right direction, you are improving your health outcome.

Start exercising today

Exercise equipment and breast cancer

There are a whole host of benefits to exercise, and cancer-risk reduction is just one of them. 

If you find yourself worrying about getting diagnosed with breast cancer, or you already know someone in your family who has been diagnosed, exercising regularly can help provide you with greater peace of mind. Instead of worrying about increased chances of contracting breast cancer, take active steps to reduce your risk.

Get Busy! 

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