These days, exercising is not just about weight loss. According to a new study published in the journal Cancer, women who exercise regularly may lower their breast cancer risk by about 30 percent.

Researchers rallied 1,504 women with breast cancer and 1,555 women who didn’t have the disease, who were between 20 to 98 years old, and were part of the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project for the study. They then interviewed these volunteers about their exercise regimen. Any recreational exercise done for at least an hour per week for a minimum of three months was recorded.

After summarizing the results, researchers conclude that women who exercised lowered their risk of breast cancer by six percent compared to those who didn’t. Interestingly, the benefits of exercise were most seen in women who already have children (either during their reproductive years or at menopause) and who worked out for about 10 to 19 hours a week. In their case, the risk of breast cancer was lowered to 30 percent.

According to Lauren McCullough, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, this bit of news might give women who are experiencing menopause the motivation to exercise. Just because you’re at a certain stage in your life doesn’t mean that you can forget about exercising altogether.

In addition, it appears that the benefits of exercise don’t exclude women who are overweight. "We are excited by that, because it tells women that even if they are overweight or obese, they can still engage in physical activity, and while they won’t lower their risk of breast cancer [below average], they will not be increasing their risk of the disease," reports McCullough.

It’s another story altogether, however, if you keep gaining back the weight you’ve lost even as you exercise. According to the study, the weight you gain after menopause is in a visceral fat form which, through a series of events, increases your risk of cancer. If you’re trying to watch out for your health, start by combining exercise with a healthy diet. Aside from lowering your risk of a dreaded disease, you’ll also feel a lot better about yourself.


(Photo by Keith Allison via Flickr Creative Commons)

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