Two new studies have come out revealing that exercise may help prevent breast cancer, and it can help with coping for those who do get it.
In one study, researchers interviewed 15,000 women and found that those who exercised strenuously six or more hours a week, and have no family history of breast cancer, may be 23% less likely to develop the disease than women who get no exercise.
The second study looked at women with early-stage breast cancer and found that those who participated in a group exercise program had a boost in mood and physical function.
Brian Sprague of the University of Wisconsin Paul P. Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center, and several other researchers, interviewed 6,391 women with breast cancer and 7,630 without the disease about their family and exercise histories. Most women, even those with breast cancer, had no family history of the disease and exercised strenuously up to three hours a week at some point since age 14.
Those who reported getting more than six hours a week of strenuous exercise activity were 23% less likely to have breast cancer than those who were sedentary, according to the study. “We have found that exercise likely offers protection against breast cancer regardless of a women’s stage in life,” said Sprague, but the study does not prove that exercise can single-handedly prevent breast cancer, nor how exercise may lower breast cancer risk.
The second study looked at 203 women with early-stage breast cancer who had not been exercising. The patients had had breast cancer surgery and were undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. They took a survey about their mood and quality of life, along with a 12-minute walking test and shoulder mobility test.
They were then split into two groups, one participated in a 12-week group exercise program, and the other was not asked to exercise. The group exercise participants met twice a week for 45-minute exercise classes, and were encouraged to work out once a week at home. In addition, they discussed topics such as setting goals and the health benefits of exercise after their classes.
At the end of the 12 weeks and again six months later, participants retook the physical and psychological tests. Those in the exercise group had improved their physical scores, and were in a better mood and coping better, than those who were not in the exercise group. These results generally held true after six months as well.
Although it’s unclear how much of the benefits are directly because of the workouts or social aspects of exercise, researchers encourage doctors to promote activity for cancer patients.
According to Sprague, “The take home message for women should be that it is never too late to start exercising.”