Exercise and Breast Cancer

Exercise (Physical Activity)

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

The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes (2½ hours) of physical activity a week to lower overall cancer risk [26].

You don’t need to do intense exercise to lower your risk of breast cancer. Activity equal to walking 30 minutes a day may lower risk by about 3 percent [119].

How can exercise affect breast cancer risk?

Exercise may lower breast cancer risk in a few ways.

It can help with weight control. Being lean lowers the risk of breast cancer after menopause [63-65].

Being active may also lower blood estrogen levels [126-129]. Women with lower blood estrogen levels have a lower risk of breast cancer than women with higher levels [19].

And, exercise may boost the body’s immune system so it can help kill or slow the growth of cancer cells [130].

Learn more about body weight and breast cancer risk.

Learn more about estrogen and breast cancer risk.

Physical activity during childhood and the teen years

Physical activity during adulthood lowers breast cancer risk [119-125]. Researchers are now studying whether being active during childhood and the teen years also lowers breast cancer risk.

Findings to date are mixed [131-132]. Some findings show women who were more active as children and teens may have a lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who were less active as children and teens [132].

Other findings show physical activity during childhood and the teen years may slightly lower the risk of breast cancer before menopause, but has no impact on the risk of breast cancer after menopause [131].

Learn more about early life exposures and breast cancer risk.

Physical activity and survival after breast cancer treatment

Some studies suggest being active lowers the risk of [133-138]:

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

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 activity you enjoy that gets you moving (for example, dancing or gardening).

The tips below may help you become more active. If you can, [26]:

  • 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 to keep track of your 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

Healthy lifestyle choices have benefits at any age.

Being active, eating a balanced diet and making other healthy lifestyle choices can be physically and mentally rewarding at any point in life.

Learn more about a healthy lifestyle and breast cancer risk.