Pick Up the Pace to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk


A study earlier this year found that one-third of all breast cancer cases could be avoided with a healthy diet and increased physical activity. A new study from Harvard takes a closer look on the intensity of that exercise and finds that women who take brisk walks have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, even if they started exercising later in life.

Three to Four Miles an Hour for 60 Minutes Reduced Breast Cancer Risk 15%

The research included data from nearly 100,000 postmenopausal women who were followed for 20 years. The women were surveyed on their physical activity – how much time they spent and what type of exercise they performed.

Walking was the most preferred exercise among the women.

Read: One-Third of Breast Cancer Cases Could be Avoided with Diet and Exercise


Women who scheduled at least an hour of brisk walking per day, defined as walking three to four miles per hour, were 15% less likely to get breast cancer. Even those who walked less time, but maintained a high intensity, were 10% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who were inactive.

Lead researcher A. Healther Eliassen said physical activity “is one of the few breast cancer risk factors that women can do something about” and that “brisk walking appeared to be the most protective.”

Read: Biggest Health Risk to Americans is Inactivity

However, any regular exercise is recommended as active women in general are less likely to get breast cancer than those who are sedentary. Exercise not only helps with weight control, but also appears to reduce the amount of estrogen in the blood, can reduce inflammation, and also has an effect on insulin sensitivity.

If you are currently inactive, the best way to begin incorporating physical activity into your daily habits is to start slowly. Begin walking 5 to 10 minutes three times a week at a comfortable pace. Gradually increase the time spent each day exercising to 30-45 minutes. After accomplishing quantity, go for quality – pick up the pace a little more each day until you are able to cover at least 3 miles in an hour’s time.