When everything from NFL players’ uniforms to household appliances turns pink each October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, it’s hard not to notice and think about what you can be doing to help prevent breast cancer. And with good reason: according to the American Cancer Society, one out of every eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life.
While there are certain factors that you cannot control when it comes to avoiding breast cancer, and getting regular mammograms is a must, the experts point out that maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise (as little as 30 minutes a day of moderately intense exercise, five days a week is effective), are two ways that you can help prevent this cancer that claims so many women’s lives. Even if you have already had, or currently have breast cancer, exercise is still recommended to help ward off future recurrences and to improve feelings of well-being.
Want to take action but aren’t sure where to start? Don’t worry! Even if you’re new to exercise, here is a really simple, three-step plan that you can follow if you are looking to shed some excess weight and incorporate more exercise into your day, which will not only reduce your risk of breast cancer and other diseases, but will also improve your daily life!
1) Incorporate cardiovascular activity into your routine most days of the week. Walking, jogging or running, biking with your kids, swimming and fitness classes like Zumba all count. Try to pick an activity or two that you enjoy so that you’re more likely to stick with it, and don’t over-think it. Simple works. Just get out there and work up a sweat for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
2) Include moderate strength training at least two days per week. Doing some sort of resistance training is incredibly important for women, especially as we age. Lifting weights helps to ward off bone loss, boosts your metabolism and helps you to maintain a healthy weight.
If you aren’t into group sculpt classes at your gym, follow a routine like this one: three sets of 12-15 reps of squats, lunges, back rows, pushups, bicep curls, tricep dips and a plank hold. With the exception of pushups and the plank hold, which are body weight exercises, use dumbbells, resistance bands or even machines at your gym to increase the resistance. Always pick a pair of weights that challenges you – once you can complete the desired number of reps comfortably, then it’s time to go heavier. And if at all possible, consider getting a session with a trainer if you can, just to ensure you’re executing all of the moves correctly to help avoid any potential injuries.
3) Practice yoga. Because we all need a little less stress in our lives, right? Most of us already know that stress also plays a role in many diseases. As part of a fitness regimen that also includes cardiovascular and strength training, yoga is an important component; not only will it help you to stretch sore muscles, but it also helps to strengthen your body and clear your mind.
If you are looking to lose weight as a preventative measure against breast cancer, know that it doesn’t have to be extreme. Experts say that losing even just 5-10% of your body weight is effective, and aiming for 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week is doable for most people when paired with a healthy diet that includes lots of fruit and vegetables, and moderate amounts of lean protein and whole grains.
- American Cancer Society website. “Four Ways to Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk.”
- International Research Conference of Food, Nutrition and Cancer. “Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention.”