New research published in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention shows that exercise like walking may reduce a person’s risk for cancer. The researchers found that postmenopausal women who were very active or walked for at least seven hours a week had a reduced risk for breast cancer.
The researchers looked at a cohort of 73,615 postmenopausal women who reported their physical activity and found that women who participated in vigorous physical activity every day had a 25% lower risk for breast cancer, and women who walked for at least seven hours a week had a 14% lower risk for breast cancer.
Given that 60% of women report some type of daily walking, the researchers say promoting walking as a leisure time activity can have protective benefits for women. Even without any other forms of exercise, women who walk had higher chances of keeping breast cancer at bay. Walking could be as beneficial to the body than say running and swimming. Research looking into the benefits of walking have shown that talking a brisk walk can help lower the risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Other emerging research has sown that exercise may be as effective as medications in treating common diseases like heart disease and diabetes. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal compared the effect of exercise to drug therapy on four different health outcomes: heart disease, recovery from stroke, heart failure treatment and preventing diabetes. The study reported that there were no detectable differences between groups of participants using exercise as therapy and participants using medications when it came to preventing diabetes and preventing additional events for heart patients.
“We look at our lifestyle today, and we are more and more sedentary as a population,” said Alpha Patel, author of the breast cancer study and a senior epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society. “We are seeing what happens when we introduce these activities into daily life. We have more of an understanding about of the role of physical activity and obesity as it relates to cancer. Earlier research has shown the benefits of exercise for diabetes and obesity prevention, but we are learning more and more about it’s influence on cancer,” she says.
Federal experts recommend people exercise at a moderate intensity for about 2.5 hours a week. Fewer than half of Americans meet that recommendation, and a third of Americans don’t get any exercise at all.