Taking Steps Toward Cancer Prevention
Evidence shows that regular exercise is associated with a reduced risk for cancer. In a 2013 study titled “Recreational Physical Activity and Leisure Time Sitting in Relation to Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Risk,” women who walked at least 7 hours a week had a 14% lower risk for breast cancer compared with women who walked 3 or fewer hours a week.1 The pace the women walked was moderate—about 3 miles per hour.
More active women (who walked and also did vigorous exercise) had a 25% lower risk for breast cancer versus the least active group. The researchers concluded that walking an average of 1 hour a day is associated with a significant reduction in breast cancer risk, and more strenuous and longer physical activities reduced the risk even more.
According to the National Cancer Institute, regular exercise can reduce the risk for several types of cancer, including breast, colon, uterine, and lung cancer. Regular exercise also helps reduce the risk for other health conditions that may increase the risk for cancer, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammation, poor immune system function, and unbalanced hormone levels.
So what’s the best way to start an exercise program? Walking is the easiest and least expensive forms of exercise. However, although it sounds easy, we know it is often difficult to maintain a regular exercise schedule.
Here are some tips to get started and keep going:
Invest in a good pair of walking shoes and moisture-wicking socks
Start where you are. Don’t be discouraged by past attempts and set-backs
Track your progress, either electronically or in a journal
Find an exercise buddy to help keep you accountable
Set short-term goals, and celebrate wins
While 150 minutes per week of exercise is the minimum recommendation for overall health, you don’t have to do it all in large chunks of time. Walking even for 10 minutes, three times throughout the day is beneficial.
Using a step counter or electronic activity tracking device helps keep you motivated
Tips for getting the most out of your walk:
Check your posture: keep your back straight, your chin slightly up, and shoulders relaxed and leaning slightly back
Use a comfortable stride for your build
Push off with your toes as you follow through with your step; this will help you use the larger muscles in your legs and gradually lengthen your stride
Slightly bend your arms at your elbows and pump your arms as you are walking; you can add more vigor to your walk by pumping your arms more
Drink water before starting out and when you are finished walking
Remember to always check with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise. And if you experience pain, any joint or muscle problems, chest pain, dizziness, or any other concerning symptoms while walking, stop walking and talk to your healthcare provider. Step by step, walking will help you improve your health!
1. -Hildebrand JS, Gapstur SM, Campbell PT, et al. Recreational physical activity and leisure-lime sitting in relation to postmenopausal breast cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers & Prevention. 2013:10:1906-1912.
American College of Sports Medicine www.acsm.org
National Cancer Institute