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Physical activity and breast cancer

Activity during Breast Cancer

Physical activity offers many benefits exclusively related to fighting breast cancer. Studies have found that it lowers the risk of developing breast cancer while also helping those fighting it or recovering from treatment.


  • The relationship between physical activity and breast cancer incidence has been studied extensively. Most studies indicate that physically active women have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than inactive women.
  • Researchers have found that women who did any exercise at all had a 6 percent lower risk of breast cancer than sedentary women.
  • Women who had children and exercised about 10 to 19 hours each week either during their reproductive years or after menopause experienced a much greater benefit, with a 30 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who exercised less or were inactive.
  • Women who increase their physical activity after menopause may also experience a reduced risk compared with inactive women.
  • Existing evidence shows a decreasing risk of breast cancer as the frequency and duration of physical activity increase.

Current and post-treatment

Regular physical activity can help maintain or improve your health during and after treatment:

  • Staying active prevents or reduces the loss of muscle tone and aerobic fitness that can happen during treatment.
  • Physical activity helps avoid or alleviate some side effects of cancer treatment – such as fatigue, weight gain, osteoporosis and lymphedema – and improves your mood and reduces anxiety and depression.
  • Exercising regularly improves your long-term health. It reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes and even lessens the risk of the cancer’s coming back. 

How much? 

Doctors recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate to intensive physical activity.

  • Most studies suggest that 30 to 60 minutes per day of moderate- to high-intensity physical activity is associated with a reduction in breast cancer risk.
  • You can split the 150 minutes however you like. For example, you could do 30 minutes of activity five days a week. If you want to do shorter periods of activity, you could do 10 minutes three times a day on each of these days.
  • While it’s recommended that everyone do a certain amount of activity each week, some treatments for breast cancer can make you feel very tired or ill. If this is the case, don’t worry about trying to do the recommended amount. Do what you can. Even a small amount of activity will have benefits.
  • If you’ve had reconstructive surgery, check with your specialist team about when you can start exercising.