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  • Carol Michaels

Women with Breast Cancer are Not Meeting Exercise Guidelines

Exercise is thought to lower the risk of other diseases among breast cancer survivors, increase their overall quality of life and reduce their mortality from breast cancer and other diseases. Unfortunately, only one in three women living with breast cancer is meeting current physical activity guidelines. More women with breast cancer should increase their participation in physical activity after the diagnosis of breast cancer.

About one in eight U.S. women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life. African American women, who tend to have higher rates of death from breast cancer than white women, were less likely to meet the guidelines. Increasing physical activity among African American women is warranted given their lower levels of physical activity and higher rates of disease and poorer survival.

The Carolina Breast cancer Study included 1,735 women ages 20 to 74 who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between 2008 and 2011 in North Carolina. The women were an average of 56 years old when they were diagnosed. The research team found that 65 percent of breast cancer survivors fell short of meeting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. About 60 percent of the study participants reported exercising less after their diagnosis than before when they were interviewed roughly six months post-diagnosis. The average participant reduced her activity by the equivalent of about five hours of brisk walking per week, according to findings published in the journal Cancer.

Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Cancer survivors can do either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of both. Strength training for all major muscle groups also should be done at least two days per week. It is also a good idea to continue to stretch regularly and use relaxation breathing techniques. Seeking out some sort of support and not just trying to go to the gym alone can be helpful for keeping that motivation up to continue to exercise.

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