Exercise and its effect on Breast Cancer development

Why is exercise important?

Being physically inactive and carrying a few extra kilos have been identified as modifiable risk factors for developing certain types of cancers.

Exercise is effective in reducing a persons body fat percentage and decreasing those risk factors.
But where do I start?
How can this benefit me?
What exercises are effective for weight loss?

How can exercise affect cancer development?

Post-menopausal women who have higher amounts of sex hormones (eg estrogen and androgen) have a higher risk of developing breast cancers. These sex hormones are circulated throughout the body as well as stored in adipose tissue (fat) in the body.


In individuals with a higher body fat percentage, a higher proportion of sex hormone is circulating in the blood than those who have less body fat. This higher body fat percentage increases the risk of cancer development.

Exercise and diet modification are effective methods in reducing the amount of adipose tissue in the body which, in turn, lowers the amount of sex hormone circulating in your system.

Effective exercise programs;  

-       Resistance and aerobic training programs have been shown to be beneficial for pretty much everyone. Some benefits of these interventions are; improved cardiorespiratory fitness, decreased pain, improved mental health, increased muscular strength, improved range of motion, improved body composition, decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer and dementia.

-       High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is another form of exercise which gives the same benefits of more traditional aerobic training programs with the added benefit of decreased time commitment and less overall energy expenditure. In fact, per unit of energy expended, HIIT has been shown to burn around 4-times the amount of fat than traditional cardio. HIIT has also been shown to produce a greater number of mitochondria in the body than traditional cardio and mitochondria numbers typically decrease with age. Regular exercise can reverse or limit this mitochondrial decrease.

-       Caloric control along with regular exercise is effective is reducing/ maintaining weight and body fat percentage, which as mentioned above can help reduce the amount of sex hormones found in the blood.
There is so much information out there about different ways to reduce your caloric input, we recommend talking to a dietitian to help get you started but a clear winner is always reducing the amount of sugar consumed as well as increasing the amount of anti-inflammatory foods in your diet.

- Aerobic exercise training programs (e.g walking, swimming, bike riding) with moderate levels (30-60 min, 3 times/ week) of physical activity can reduce the risk of death from breast cancer. Another valuable effect of this type of training is that aerobic exercise has been shown to be beneficial for an individuals mental health state, which can be an important factor in overall outcomes.

Exercise is an important part of our day-to-day lifestyle, and is a great tool to add to a persons recovery or prevention plan. Not just for decreasing cancer risk, but for decreasing the risk of nearly all major health concerns that face our modern society.



Robert MaskiellComment