October; the month of all things colourful, cozy and pumpkin spice. It’s also the month of Breast Cancer Awareness. With 1 in 8 women being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, we view this month as an important opportunity to take action toward breast health.
Did you know – women who are more active have a lower risk of breast cancer compared to inactive women? Exercise is a protective factor, helping to manage body weight and modifying metabolic, hormonal and immune processes in the body that contribute to a decreased risk of cancer. Participating in moderate to vigorous intensity activity can decrease the risk of breast cancer by an average of 25% (Freidenreich et al., 2011). This effect is even higher in post-menopausal women, who can reduce their risk of breast cancer by up to 31% with regular exercise. Based on the important role of exercise in reducing the risk of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society’s Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention recommend limiting sedentary behaviour and engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week (Kushi et al., 2012)!
Aerobic exercise includes any activity that develops and improves your cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness. In other words, the type of exercise that increases the fitness of your heart and lungs and your body’s ability to move oxygen and nutrients to your working muscles and tissues. Common cardiovascular activities include walking, hiking, running, swimming, cycling. Anything that gets your heart rate up and causes you to breath harder! Similar to the Physical Activity guidelines for Cancer Prevention listed above, the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (or about 30 minutes of activity five times per week). If you choose vigorous type of activities, like running or interval training, the minimum recommended time per week decreases to 75 minutes. How often did you participate in aerobic exercise last week? How long was each session and how would you rate your intensity? Taking small steps towards more aerobic exercise is a great way to stay healthy and prevent chronic diseases, including cancer.
Being responsible for your own health is a great start. We would also like to encourage you to advocate for others too! Your own actions can inspire and empower the people around you to do the same for themselves. Even small actions can ripple out into big changes. A simple text message to your friends and family encouraging them to join you for a walk or an exercise class is a great way to build a more active and healthy community! In honour of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, let’s get moving!