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  • Exercise (Physical Activity)

    Healthy Living
    Fact Sheet


    Research Fast Facts: Prevention
    Fact Sheet

    Women who get regular exercise (physical activity) may have a lower risk of breast cancer than women who are inactive [92-94].

    Although not all studies show this benefit, when the evidence is looked at as a whole, regular exercise appears to lower breast cancer risk by about 10 to 20 percent [92-94].

    This benefit is seen most clearly in postmenopausal women [92-94].

    For a summary of research studies on physical activity and breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.


     Komen Perspectives

    Read Komen’s perspective on physical activity and breast cancer risk
    (December 2010).*

    How much physical activity is needed to reduce breast cancer risk?

    The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of physical activity a week to lower overall cancer risk [95].

    However, you don’t need to have an intense exercise routine to lower your risk of breast cancer. Activity equal to walking 30 minutes a day may lower risk by about three percent [93].

    How can physical activity affect breast cancer risk?

    Exercise can help with weight control. Being lean lowers the risk of breast cancer after menopause [54-56].

    Physical activity may lower estrogen levels in women, which can also protect against breast cancer [97-98]. It may also boost the body’s immune system so that it can help kill or slow the growth of cancer cells [99].

    Learn more about body weight and breast cancer risk.

    Learn more about estrogen and breast cancer risk.

    Physical activity and survival after breast cancer treatment

    Some studies suggest being active lowers the risk of [100-105]:

    • Breast cancer recurrence
    • Breast cancer-specific mortality (death from breast cancer)
    • Overall mortality (death from any cause, not necessarily breast cancer)

    Breast cancer survivors do not need intense exercise to get a survival benefit. A pooled analysis that combined data from over 13,000 breast cancer survivors found that those who got roughly three or more hours a week of moderate paced walking had a 30 percent lower risk of death (from any cause) compared to less active survivors [103].

    The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week of physical activity for cancer survivors [106]. One study found that breast cancer survivors who got this recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week had a 25 percent lower risk of breast cancer mortality and a 27 percent lower risk overall mortality than those who got less exercise [103].


    For a summary of research studies on physical activity and breast cancer survival, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.

    Other benefits for breast cancer survivors

    Regular exercise has other health benefits for breast cancer survivors. It can increase positive mood and improve physical condition and movement, which in turn, can enhance quality of life [107-109].

    Learn more about physical activity and breast cancer survival.

    Tips to increase physical activity

    Being active is good for your health, but it can be hard to find time to exercise. Do any activities you enjoy that get you moving (for example, dancing or gardening).

    If you can, the following tips may help you become more active [95]:

    • Use stairs rather than an elevator.
    • Walk or bike instead of driving.
    • Park farther away from a store.
    • Take your pet for a walk.
    • Exercise at lunch or take an exercise break to stretch or take a quick walk.
    • Plan active vacations.
    • Wear a device every day and increase your daily steps.
    • Join a recreational sports team.
    • Use a stationary bicycle or treadmill while watching TV.

    It's never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle

    Making healthy lifestyle choices has benefits at any age.

    Being more active, eating a balanced diet and becoming more aware of your health can be physically and mentally rewarding at any point in life.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website www.choosemyplate.gov has free tools to help you set weight and activity goals for healthy living. For example, their tool Supertracker can help you plan, track and analyze your diet and exercise.

     Susan G. Komen’s breast self-awareness messages


    1. Know your risk

    • Talk to both sides of your family to learn about your family health history  
    • Talk to a health care provider about your risk of breast cancer

    2. Get screened

    3. Know what is normal for you and see a health care provider if you notice any of these breast changes (see images):

    • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
    • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
    • Change in the size or shape of the breast
    • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
    • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
    • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
    • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
    • New pain in one spot that doesn't go away

    4. Make healthy lifestyle choices

    *Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date at this time.  

    Updated 09/29/15

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