An active lifestyle such as doing housework, brisk walking and gardening helps to reduce the chance of getting breast cancer, new research shows today.
The research – the largest ever looking at physical activity and breast cancer – is part of ongoing work by the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC), a Cancer Research UK co-funded study and one of the biggest studies into the links between diet, lifestyle and cancer.
Researchers looked at over 8,000 breast cancer cases in women. They found that the group who were the most physically active were 13% less likely to develop breast cancer compared with those who were physically inactive.
Researchers found that women who were moderately active had an 8% lower chance of developing breast cancer.
Inspired to get moving? Here are other reasons to enjoy the fresh air..
Improved Attention And Focus
A small study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that kids with ADHD were <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18725656?ordinalpos=6&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum" target="_hplink">able to concentrate better after a 20-minute walk in a park</a> rather than a walk through city or neighborhood streets. "What this particular study tells us is that <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/17/a-dose-of-nature-for-attention-problems/" target="_hplink">the physical environment matters</a>," Frances E. Kuo, director of the university's Landscape and Human Health Laboratory and one of the study's co-authors told <em>The New York Times</em>. "We don't know what it is about the park, exactly -- the greenness or lack of buildings -- that seems to improve attention." <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/quacktaculous/3143079032/" target="_hplink">quacktaculous</a></em>
Greater Likelihood To Keep Exercising
While every little bit of exercise counts, let's be honest: most of us could probably afford to do a little bit <em>more</em>. The <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html" target="_hplink">2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans</a> recommend the average adult get two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio every week, plus two or more sessions of strength training. It's all too easy to skimp on workouts. However, a 2011 survey found that exercising outdoors is a reinforcing behavior -- the study found that outdoor exercisers "declared a <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21291246" target="_hplink">greater intent to repeat the activity</a> at a later date" than gym-goers.
Lower Risk Of Being Overweight
The fresh air, the sunlight, the scenery, the open space -- there's a lot about being outside that can inspire more activity, especially when contrasted to the beckoning couches and screens of indoor spaces. And the extra movement adds up. A 2008 study found that rates of overweight among children who spent more time outside were <a href="http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v32/n11/full/ijo2008171a.html" target="_hplink">27 to 41 percent lower than in kids who spent more time indoors</a>.
Exercise itself is sure to reinvigorate you when you're feeling sluggish, but fresh air can up the effect. A 2009 study from the University of Rochester found that <a href="http://www.intrinsicmotivation.net/SDT/documents/2010_RyanWeinstenEtAl_JEVP.pdf" target="_hplink">just 20 minutes outside</a> can rev you up <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/7803320/20-minutes-outdoors-as-good-as-cup-of-coffee.html" target="_hplink">as much as a cup of coffee</a>, <em>The Telegraph</em> reported. "Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but this suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature," lead author <a href="http://www.psych.rochester.edu/faculty/ryan/" target="_hplink">Richard M. Ryan, Ph.D.</a>, a professor of psychology at the university told the publication. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/galant/688642298/" target="_hplink">thebittenword.com</a></em>
Faster Healing And Less Pain
A 2005 study of spinal surgery patients found that patients staying on the sunny side of the hospital reported <a href="http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/67/1/156.abstract" target="_hplink">less pain, less stress and needed less medication</a> for pain than patients housed on the shady side of the building. Of course, recovering from a surgery will temporarily put a damper on most fitness plans, but if sunlight is the key ingredient, an outdoor workout may just boast some of the same benefits for more minor injuries.
Higher Vitamin D Levels
Taking your workout outside is a great (and free!) way to soak up some additional vitamin D. A 2011 study that found vigorous exercisers had higher levels of vitamin suggested that <a href="http://yourlife.usatoday.com/fitness-food/exercise/story/2011-10-04/Vigorous-exercise-boosts-vitamin-D-while-lowering-heart-risk/50660716/1" target="_hplink">outdoor exercise may be the reason why</a>, <em>USA Today</em> reported. It may be especially helpful for people with a few pounds to lose, according to Everyday Health, since overweight people are almost <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/outdoor-exercise-benefits.aspx" target="_hplink">twice as likely to not get enough vitamin D</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/4775285017/" target="_hplink">Wonderlane</a></em>
Previous research has estimated that more than three per cent of breast cancers, more than 5% of colon cancers and around four per cent of womb cancers in the UK in 2010 were linked to people doing fewer than 150 minutes of at least moderate intensity physical activity per week.
Professor Tim Key, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist based at the University of Oxford who works on the EPIC study, said, in a statement: “This large study further highlights the benefits of being active – even moderate amounts. There is also a lot of evidence that exercise reduces the risk of bowel cancer. More research is needed on other types of cancer, and to investigate the mechanisms which could explain the links.”
The government recommends we do 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity – such as brisk walking. But only 39% of men and 29% of women are managing this.
Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said: “While maintaining a healthy bodyweight and cutting back on alcohol remain two of the best ways of reducing our risk of breast cancer, being active can clearly play a role too – but doesn’t have to cost you money or too much time.
“You don’t need to train like an Olympic athlete but the excitement of watching team GB win so many golds might have inspired some of us to spend less time on the sofa. And, as this research confirms, exercise can include anything that leaves you slightly out of breath like doing the gardening, walking the dog or housework.
“Small changes in your daily routine can make all the difference, like taking the stairs instead of the lift or walking some of the way to work, school or the shops and add up over the course of a week.”
“Keeping active could help prevent more than 3,000 cases of cancer in the UK every year. And it can have a positive effect on your health."