Friday, October 10, 2014

Exercise breast cancer prevention


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and reminders are everywhere for women to remain vigilant about screening and maintaining a healthy lifestyle – including daily exercise. Lidia Schapira, MD, medical oncologist with the MGH Center for Breast Cancer, shares her insights on the benefits of staying fit.

Can exercise prevent the risk of breast cancer?
There is considerable emerging evidence that moderate to vigorous exercise has many benefits, and I would strongly encourage women to take this into consideration. Often we think of exercise as “optional,” but in fact it should be part of our daily routine.

What are the benefits of exercise for women with a breast cancer diagnosis?
Exercise can help reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence and will undoubtedly help them feel better. There have been studies that show exercise during radiation, for example, helps reduce fatigue. Others have shown a change in the levels of hormones in the blood. All these point in the same direction – exercise is beneficial.

If you were to dose exercise like you dose medication how much would you prescribe?
Current recommendations are to work out at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. I would recommend aiming for daily exercise, because typically something interferes with our plans, so planning for daily workouts will guarantee we get at least five workouts into each week. My recommendation is to walk vigorously or bike or run for at least a half an hour and also to consider other forms of exercise that focus on increasing flexibility, strength and balance, such as yoga and Pilates.

What modifications do you recommend for those with a prior injury or who are out of shape?

Supervision from a physiotherapist or an expert physical trainer may be helpful to get some women started on a regular routine. Individual tolerance may vary and there are many ways of exercising that are pleasing and feel comfortable – one size does not fit all.

Is there a specific exercise program or diet for women with breast cancer?
We do know vigorous exercise helps improve quality of life and favorably affects recurrence risk. The benefits of a balanced and structured exercise program include weight loss, improvement in energy, improved balance and stamina, better sleep and a boost in self-confidence. I’ve also found that women who are serious about their commitment to exercise often find they pay more attention to their diets and alcohol consumption. So all these lifestyle interventions are linked, and improvement in one area typically leads to improvement in other areas as well.

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Read more articles from the 10/10/14 Hotline issue.


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