Physically Fit Women Less Likely to Die From Breast Cancer

The University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health found that women who exercise regularly and are physically fit are less likely to die from breast cancer. Previous research has made a correlation between exercise and the prevention of cancer, but Dr. Steve Blair, an Arnold School researcher and a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine, states that “[w]e believe this is the first study to evaluate the association of objectively measured fitness and risk of dying from breast cancer… [t]he results suggest a stronger protective effect than has been seen in most studies on self-reported physical activity and breast cancer, probably because the objective laboratory test of fitness is more accurate that self-reports of activity.”

This study included over 14,000 female participants between the ages of 20-83 who had no history of breast cancer. Between 1973 and 2001, each participant was given an initial medical examination that tested their maximal exercise capacity and was continually observed through 2003 for breast cancer diagnosis and death due to this disease. Women in the study were divided into 3 categories: low, moderate, and high, based on their individual fitness. The “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” suggests 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking, 5 days per week (150 minutes per week). Participants that followed this guideline were categorized as moderate exercisers. Women that exercised 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, or 150 minutes doing a more vigorous workout (running, aerobics classes, etc.), were considered high fitness. The participants that did not meet the required 150 minutes of activity per week were labeled low fitness.

According to the results of the study, the women who were considered to be in the low fitness category were three times as likely to die from breast cancer as those women in the high fitness category. The women in the moderate fitness group were also found to be less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than those in the low category.

This finding is extremely helpful in preventing a disease that claims the lives of over 40,000 women per year. 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week is easily attainable, especially if you’re able to split it into bouts of 10 minutes or more. You will still achieve the same benefits and it won’t seem as time consuming or unrealistic if you have a hectic schedule. If you’re able to perform more vigorous exercise during those sessions, the gains will be even greater and will put you into the high fitness category. Now that breast cancer prevention can be added to reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol on the list of advantages of exercise, it is even more important that every woman participates in a regular fitness routine.

For the University of South Carolina’s report of the findings, click here.

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