When my grandmother was first diagnosed with breast cancer back in 1979, which resulted in a mastectomy, October was still just another month, not yet synonymous with Breast Cancer Awareness month. At the time, research into prevention and treatment of breast cancer still had a ways to go, but my grandmother took to what felt natural to her at the time, to prevent the cancer from coming back and to speed up her recovery. She lost weight, by eating a more health conscious diet, and she became a devout walker, her favorite way to stay active. She walked the high school track to keep track of her miles, and when it rained she hit the town mall. Turns out that the latest research linking breast cancer prevention with walking is proof that my grandmother was ahead of her time.
Numerous studies recommend a myriad of ways to help prevent cancer, but the vast quantity of information can be overwhelming and hard to sort through. On top of that, adding supplements or different drugs to your daily routine can be costly. But positive new research by the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that adding a brisk walk to your daily routine can lower your risk of breast cancer by up to 25%.
The study looked at over 73,000 postmenopausal women aged 50-74, and the results were staggering. Author of the study, Alpa Patel, Ph.D., stated, “We were pleased to find that without any other recreational activity, just walking an average of one hour per day was associated with lower risk of breast cancer in these women.” Even if no other physical activity was done, just walking alone dramatically lowered their risk. Those who walked for at least 1 hour per day and were the most active saw the biggest impact with a 25% reduction, whereas those who walked for just 2 to 3 hours a week still saw benefits.
Recent studies have found that exercise can not only help combat obesity and diabetes, but in the prevention of heart disease as well. And staying physically active is listed as one of the top 10 ways to help prevent breast cancer. Of the study, only 9% of the women reported not doing any physical activity whatsoever. Compare that to the 33% of overall Americans who don’t partake in any physical activity, it shows that as a nation we still have a ways to go to increasing our average fitness level, but encouraging research as this helps to pave the way for further change.
Since the women targeted in the study were postmenopausal, walking can be a welcome reprieve from long days spent cooped up indoors, which may have a lot to do with the overall high participation in physical activity. Walking and other forms of exercise can serve to not only improve physical health, but boost mental health as well, giving women a worthwhile dose of socialization.
The beautiful thing about walking is that it costs nothing but a pair of shoes. It can be done outside or indoors during snow and rain, and requires no special skills or training. Although this study focused on older women, I think us younger ladies can definitely learn a thing or two and could only benefit from lacing up our walking shoes more often during the week.
While my grandmother took to walking after she already had breast cancer, it’s worth noting that her cancer never came back and she remained in remission for almost 30 years. After reading these latest research findings, I’m thinking her white and pink walking shoes may have had a lot to do with it.
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